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Agriculture a key part of Governor's trade mission to Asia
10/11/2012
ODA, Oregon dairy and potato industries part of the delegation to three key markets

Once again, Oregon agriculture will be part of the center stage as Governor Kitzhaber leads a delegation on a three-stop Asian trade mission this month. Starting in Shanghai, China, continuing in Hong Kong, and ending in Tokyo, Japan, the 11-day mission includes the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture as well as representatives of the state’s dairy and potato industries. With growing economies in Asia and Oregon’s long-standing trade relationship with the region, excellent export opportunities await the members of the delegation.

“I’m always excited to go on these missions,” says ODA Director Katy Coba. “These markets are very important for Oregon agriculture. We have a governor who is interested in supporting the industry. He’s spending time with our delegation and the partners we need overseas to advance our exports. There are great opportunities in Asia for Oregon agriculture.”

The mission, which runs October 14-25, begins in Shanghai for two full days of activities and meetings in one of China’s busiest trade hubs. From Shanghai, the delegation will travel to Hong Kong with a side trip to Macau. Hong Kong remains a major gateway for products entering southern China. The mission ends with three full days in Tokyo. Japan continues to be Oregon’s largest trade partner. With all three destinations, it is important to reconnect with current customers of Oregon agricultural products as well as to prospect for additional opportunities.

“These markets are pivotal to Oregon’s export economy, particularly for agricultural products,” says Coba. “Any time we can have the governor travel to these markets, it provides additional access and terrific opportunities for Oregon agriculture.”

While the governor tends other Oregon economic interests as well, he will plug in to many of the agricultural activities during the mission. Meanwhile, the agricultural delegation will target specific opportunities to help producers back home. A growing Asian economy and increased demand for the kinds of products Oregon can provide makes this an important trip.

“Oregon is strategically located to access the Asian market,” says Coba. “Exports complement other market opportunities for our producers and processors. We need the local and regional market, the domestic market, and the international market. Providing opportunity for Oregon agriculture in all three helps stabilize revenue. Obviously, Oregon agriculture produces more than we can consume within the state, so we will always need to look beyond our borders.”

Oregon’s potato industry is not new to the export markets of Asia. Representatives have participated in past trade missions and other ventures organized by ODA.

“Having potato representatives join us on this trip is a continuation of the successful efforts that have already taken place for both our fresh and processed potato products,” says Coba. “We will be meeting with government officials at all three stops to make sure the protocols for shipping potatoes overseas are being met. Our side trip to Macao is designed to see what potatoes are already being sold in the marketplace as we look for opportunities to expand the marketing effort. Specifically, our specialty potatoes offer some good possibilities.”

This mission, however, is a maiden voyage for Oregon’s dairy industry, which is dipping its toe into the export market.

“I would say the last five times I’ve been in Asia, I’ve been asked by buyers and others whether Oregon has dairy products to offer,” says Coba. “So we are excited to have representatives from our dairy industry joining the mission. We are exploring export opportunities by meeting with dairy industry experts in China, Hong Kong, and Japan. There is demand and clearly a growing population that wants access to a variety of dairy products– anything from yogurt to cheese to dry milk to shelf-stable fluid milk.”

The delegation includes the chair and executive director of the Oregon Dairy Products Commission as well as representatives of Three Mile Canyon Farms– the state’s largest dairy operation. Depending on what is learned during this trip, Oregon’s dairy industry will decide whether it can compete in the Asian marketplace.

“If the answer is yes, we will work with our dairy producers and processors to do the things necessary to get the product exported, including the way products are processed and packaged,” says Coba. “I’m intrigued because it has been a tough domestic market for the industry. If we can find another alternative, it wouldn’t replace the domestic market, but it would provide another market opportunity that could help stabilize costs.”

As part of the mission, ODA is also cooperating with the Northwest Pear Bureau to use the opportunity to promote the State Fruit– pears. The governor and Director Coba will kick off the current pear shipping season with a ribbon cutting event at a Hong Kong retailer. Asia is an important market for Pacific Northwest pears and the buyers appreciate the opportunity to draw further attention to the product. Such promotional events help differentiate Pacific Northwest pears from other consumer choices.

The wine industry gives Oregon another agricultural presence during the mission. Oregon Wine Board Chair Michael Donavan will be joining selected events and conducting wine-specific meetings to bolster the growing reputation of Oregon wines in Asia. The trip presents a study in contrasts. Japan is a relatively mature, but a valuable and strategically important market for Oregon wines. Consumption of grape wine is still a relatively new phenomenon in China. However, interest from the Greater China market is increasing, thanks, in part, to the recent Oregon Wine Board participation in the Vinexpo trade show in Hong Kong.

Several common activities will take place in all three major stops, including retail store visits that help Oregon learn about Asian consumer preference, which is very different from the US consumer. But the trade mission is mostly about establishing and maintaining relationships. There is nothing like being there in person.

For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.


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