Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and seven North Dakota companies returned from Colombia last week after participating in an ambitious trade mission to increase North Dakota’s market share in Colombia’s food sector by appealing to consumers and major importers alike.
The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) partnered with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and Lac Market of Bogotá, Colombia to introduce North Dakota’s specialty crops to Colombian buyers during events held March 2-8 in Bogotá and Medellín. The trade mission culminated with the inaugural Colombia-North Dakota ‘Better for You Food Ingredients’ Conference & Exhibition in Medellín.
During the trip, Commissioner Goehring met with Colombia’s Agriculture Vice Minister Juan Pablo Pineda, as well as the Colombian Corporation for Agricultural Research and the Colombia Agricultural Society in order to strengthen the trade relationship between North Dakota and Colombia.
Goehring said there was a great deal of interest in North Dakota’s pulse flour, a food ingredient that “can be added to traditional foods to increase protein, fiber, and other nutrients while lowering the glycemic index and not changing the flavor.” He said such a product appeals to the emerging middle class, but also to local governments and municipalities looking for nutrient-rich food for impoverished populations.
Goehring added, “Even with the high value of the dollar, they are still interested in gaining access to our high quality products.”
The trade mission introduced Colombian food buyers across three market segments to the taste and health benefits of North Dakota specialty crops. Targeted sectors were consumers, wholesalers, and large importers. Mission delegates attended meetings with potential buyers in each sector, including two of the largest food suppliers in Colombia – CORABASTOS and Central Mayorista. Trade mission participants also collaborated with six Colombian stores to hold in-store promotional events, offering recipe books and samples of local dishes cooked with North Dakota pulses.
The week’s full schedule was capped off with the inaugural Colombia-North Dakota ‘Better for You Food Ingredients’ Conference & Exhibition on March 8, which was attended by approximately 75 guests from 30 Colombian companies. North Dakota State University’s Dr. Juan Osorno presented an educational program on North Dakota peas, lentils, dry edible beans, and borage to an audience of Colombian buyers, food producers, and research and development specialists. Following the educational program, a renowned Colombian chef carried out live preparation of Colombian recipes using North Dakota ingredients.
The conference portion gave North Dakota specialty crop companies further opportunities to demonstrate their high quality products to potential buyers with table-top exhibits and one-on-one meetings.
This trade mission was part of a larger initiative to help North Dakota companies build strong relationships with Colombian partners and fulfill the growing demand for products in the Colombian market. This was the fifth North Dakota trade mission to Colombia. NDTO led missions to the market in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015. A North Dakota-Colombia reverse trade mission was held in August 2015. The United States and Colombia signed a free trade agreement in 2012.
Trade mission participants were able receive reimbursement for approved travel expenses through the NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program, a reimbursement program authorized by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through the USDA. The NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program provides funding to eligible business concerns to increase global market visibility and competitiveness of the North Dakota specialty crop sector.