The first U.S. Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission to Peru and Ecuador ended on a high note February 2. Over two days, 20 U.S. companies had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with dozens of Peruvian and Ecuadorian producers, processors, buyers, traders, and investors, who had come to form partnerships and develop trade relationships. I am pleased to report that some business deals have been finalized with more in process. The in-person contact provided by the mission has been absolutely essential to establishing a foundation for future trade.
In addition to this good news, I had the pleasure of meeting February 1 with 11 Peruvian alumni of USDA’s two international scientific and technical exchange programs: the Cochran Fellowship Program and the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. The alumni are researchers, scientists, policymakers, businesspeople, and academics and received training at U.S. universities, institutions, and facilities in the latest agricultural technology, best food practices, or agricultural extension and education.
I was impressed by what the alumni told me about the effect the training has had on their careers and their lives. Mario Escobar, who studied at the American Institute of Baking under the Cochran Program, started his own business in Peru that certifies bakeries in international standards for bread. Diana Cunliffe studied dairy herd management at the University of Wisconsin at Madison under the Cochran Program. She now teaches at Cayetano Heredia University in Peru and judges dairy expo fairs.
My trip ended with visits to agricultural sites that showcase the capabilities and potential of Peru. I toured the International Potato Center, where I learned why the potatoes here taste so good. The staff also showed me many more potato varieties that are not in stores. I also saw the seed bank that contains over 4,000 worldwide varieties of potatoes and heard about the work the Center is doing to enhance nutrition and decrease poverty of the rural poor worldwide using potatoes as the foundation. With a growing world population and increasing food insecurity, their work is essential for a better future.
In the afternoon, I visited a family owned feed mill and a dairy farm. At the feed mill, on top of the piles of soybeans and cornmeal, I saw the first U.S. shipment to Peru of distillers dried grain with soluble (DDGS). DDGS is a byproduct of the ethanol process that is used as high protein livestock feed. The feed mill’s owners see great promise for incorporating DDGS into local feeds and are positive about developing business relationships with U.S. companies to import more in the future. The dairy farm had an impressive herd of 250 cows that are increasing quality and productivity through genetics, and using U.S. cows to achieve these goals. The American producer truly has a global reach.
These visits showed me what we can accomplish through research, trade, and cooperation. Peru and Ecuador are full of promise and opportunities. The face-to-face meetings afforded by this trade mission were only the beginning of long and productive relationships among our countries.