Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring led North Dakota ethanol organizations and an NDSU biofuel research professor on a trade mission to Brazil this month with the goal of increasing North Dakota’s share of Brazil’s ethanol fuel market. Meetings and events took place August 5-9 and introduced North Dakota ethanol producers to Brazilian importers and the country’s biofuel infrastructure. This was North Dakota’s first ethanol-focused trade mission.
The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) partnered with U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) offices in Fargo, São Paulo and Recife, as well as with the Foreign Ag Service, to make this trade mission a success. In addition to Commissioner Goehring, delegates included personnel from Midwest Ag Energy, Red Trail Energy, the North Dakota Ethanol Council, NDSU, USCS and NDTO.
Brazil was the number one importer of U.S. ethanol in 2018. The trade mission occurred as Brazilian authorities debate on lifting ethanol trade barriers, which include a 20% tariff on imported ethanol after an annual quota of 158 million gallons is reached. That decision is expected August 31.
“The Brazilian market is quite promising, especially if the 20% duty is eliminated, and this trade mission helped us build mutually beneficial relationships with ethanol industry leaders,” said Commissioner Goehring. “Brazil has aggressive goals for biofuel use-97% of cars produced in Brazil are already using flex fuel-and exporting to Brazil serves both the state’s ethanol companies and North Dakota corn producers, who supply more than 80% of the corn processed into ethanol in North Dakota.”
During the trade mission, delegates traveled to both São Paulo and Recife, where they attended briefings on Brazil’s burgeoning ethanol market and met with ethanol importers and distributors.
Deana Wiese is the executive director of the North Dakota Ethanol Council and participated in the trade mission. “It was a valuable trip for North Dakota’s ethanol industry,” said Wiese. “With the significant increases in demand predicted in Brazil over the next decade, we’re optimistic that our companies will be able to help fulfill that need.”
The mission was enhanced by the temporary assignment of USCS International Trade Specialist Heather Ranck, who typically works out of the USCS-Fargo office but was placed in Recife in July and August. The USCS teams in Fargo, São Paulo and Recife played a central role and were able to secure top-level meetings for North Dakota companies.
“It was fascinating to spend a month working as the Principal Commercial Officer in Recife, Brazil, working to advance the North Dakota Ethanol Trade Mission and learn how the U.S. Commercial Service supports companies seeking business connections overseas,” said Ranck. “When we can leverage U.S. government resources to build high-level connections with the right people in-country, everybody wins.”
NDTO Director of Marketing & Events Lindsey Warner organized the mission and guided the group in Brazil. She predicts future visits to North Dakota from Brazilian ethanol companies.
“We know of one Brazilian ethanol company that’s already planning to visit the area and meet with North Dakota ethanol producers,” said Warner. “We see the most success for our members and exporters when we follow up a trade mission with an invitation to potential buyers to visit the region and tour the facilities. In this way, we’re able to foster those relationships, and companies on both sides do business with people they trust.”
Eligible trade mission participants were able receive reimbursement for approved travel expenses through North Dakota’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP ND). STEP ND is a financial reimbursement program designed to assist small North Dakota businesses in growing their international exports. STEP ND funds are provided by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and administered through NDTO.
The North Dakota Trade Office is a membership-based, private/public partnership that provides education, research, advocacy, organization, and leadership so that NDTO members and North Dakota companies can increase exports and grow their international business.