The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is funding its partners, the four State Regional Trade Groups (STRGs), to host a series of nationwide seminars that inspire small and medium U.S. food and agricultural companies to become exporters.
“Explore Exporting – The World is Waiting” provides introductory export education and resources for interested agribusinesses at little or no cost. The seminars help support President Obama’s National Export Initiative’s (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. More than 220 U.S. companies have attended the seminars to date and more seminars will be available throughout 2012.
With 95.5 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States and growing international demand for U.S. food and agricultural products, it’s essential for U.S. agricultural companies to learn their export and market potential opportunities, said Andy Anderson, executive director of the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA), one of four SRTGs. Other SRTGs include the Southern U.S. Trade Association (SUSTA), the Food Export Association of the Midwest and Food Export USA – Northeast.
“With recent strategic free trade agreements and continued foreign demand for safe, quality-driven and U.S.-branded food, real opportunities exist for agribusinesses,” he said. “Through the Explore Exporting seminars, businesses will not only learn of the opportunities that exist, but they will tap into a network of vast resources that can help them explore, enter and expand in the international market.”
AC Sutherland, owner of High J Orchards in central Washington state, said attending a seminar lit the fire to pursue exporting her company’s homemade applesauce outside the United States. During the seminar, Sutherland learned best financial practices along with logistics and shipping advice.
“The seminar was very helpful and full of valuable information and facts that I did not know,” Sutherland said. “The seminar did a great job teaching us about the many opportunities to be found already in the foreign markets, especially in China and India.”
The company began making applesauce using two varieties of apples it grew on its farm. Due to increasing demand, the company quickly outgrew its small farm and had to outsource apples from other Washington apple producers. Sutherland said her company will continue to increase production to explore global markets.
After the seminar, Sutherland met with international trade specialists for advice and has been in contact with a broker who sells to London retailers and a local distributor for Asian markets. With funding from FAS’s Market Access Program, WUSATA’s Branded Program helped send her products to the 2012 Summer Fancy Food Show. The show is a large specialty food and beverage event featuring more than 80 countries and regions.
“The export educational information has been so helpful and everyone involved has been very kind,” Sutherland said. “I now have a business plan and am working on a number of issues that will better prepare my company for tackling the export market. I only wish I had known about this information years ago, but I’m excited for the opportunities that may come thanks to this one seminar.”
U.S. food and agricultural exports reached a record $137.4 billion in fiscal year 2011 and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus stands at a record $42.7 billion.