The Organic Trade Association’s export promotion program closed the first quarter of 2019 with a flourish, and is beginning the second quarter in an equally robust way.
“The Organic Trade Association has been opening up new markets for U.S. organic products for nearly 20 years through our participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (MAP),” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “The world’s appetite for organic just keeps on growing, and the U.S. industry can go a long way to filling that demand if we help the sector make the right connections.”
With new funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Organic Trade Association will lead a team this week to Toronto to participate in SIAL Canada -- Canada’s biggest food trade show of the year, and one of North America’s largest gatherings of food industry professionals from around the world. The huge show draws over 15,000 buyers from more than 60 countries.
“We are thrilled to be leading a team for the first time at this important show,” said Alexis Carey, Manager of International Trade for the Organic Trade Association. “Not only will buyers from all over the world be attending, but Canada is our Number 1 export market for organic. Canadian consumers are looking for that USDA Organic label, and more than half of U.S. organic exports are now shipped to Canada. We’re eager to introduce them to more U.S. organic products.”
The Organic Trade Association was awarded funding from two separate USDA programs for 2019. The annual Market Access Program funding was $883,593 for 2019, the largest award the association has received in its almost two decades as an official cooperator in USDA’s flagship program to promote American agricultural products in global markets.
A new program introduced in the fall of 2018, the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program, began as part of the funding assistance given by the U.S. government to those affected by retaliatory tariffs. The Organic Trade Association was awarded $547,085 to carry out market promotion activities in Mexico, Canada, the Middle East, and Asia.
Big wins in first quarter
Although release of the MAP/ATP grant funding allocations was delayed due to the late passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the 35-day government shutdown, the Organic Trade Association clocked in a busy and fruitful first quarter of international programming.
In February, the association led a 14-member team of organic businesses to Germany to participate in BioFach, the largest trade show in the world for organic products. Half of the team was new to the event, and four of those participants were new to any Organic Trade Association-sponsored international event. The American organic team was enthusiastically welcomed by the international buyers, and the team reported projected sales of over $4.9 million as a direct result of their participation in BioFach.
“The diversity of commodities as well as new and return participants to our booth were a strong achievement this year as we build new companies into our export programming,” said Carey. “Our team ranged from a maker of organic Kombucha to spices and ingredient companies.”
“With more than 3,200 exhibitors from 98 countries and 51,000-plus attendees, BioFach offers abundant opportunities for U.S. organic suppliers to meet with buyers from not just Europe, but from all over the world,” said Carey.
In early March, the Organic Trade Association was in Japan conducting its first activity as part of its Agricultural Trade Promotion program funding. Six organic exhibitors with products ranging from organic grains and lentils to BBQ sauce participated in the huge FoodEx Japan trade show. Projected sales racked up at the show: an impressive total of $4.5 million-plus with $30,000 in onsite sales.
“FoodEx Japan was a massive success, especially considering five out of our six participants were new to the show,” said Carey. “Japan is a crucial market in Asia with increasing demand for organic products.”
Second quarter off to quick start
The Organic Trade Association team members travelling to Toronto for SIAL Canada represent a wide array of organic products, ranging from organic poultry and organic seasonings to organic legumes and organic sprouted flours.
Timeless Seeds, a Montana company that sells organic heirloom varieties of grains and legumes, will be going to SIAL Canada for the first time. Matthew Leardini, General Manager of the company, says participating in global trade shows wouldn’t be possible without some help: “The Organic Trade Association’s support and the USDA funds have provided the means for us to participate in various international shows to promote and sell Montana-origin organic lentils and heirloom grains into the world market--an opportunity we would financially not otherwise be able to have.”
Also on the calendar for this quarter is the large Seoul Food and Hotel show in late May. For the fourth year, the Organic Trade Association will be escorting a team to this largest trade show in Korea. It will be the first time at the show for half the team, where they will have access to key buyers from across Asia.
Plans already in gear for third quarter
Looking even further ahead, the third quarter will also get off to a fast start. In July, the Organic Trade Association will host its first-ever buyers mission at the fourth-annual Organic Produce Summit on July 10th in Monterey, California. This can’t-miss event for the organic produce sector is the only event in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to bringing together organic fresh produce growers, shippers and processors with retailer and buying organizations from across the globe.
The Organic Trade Association will be hosting a half-dozen international buyers from Mexico and the Pacific Rim countries at the summit. This buyers’ mission is especially important because Mexico and the Pacific Rim countries are among the U.S.’s largest trading partners for fresh produce. In addition, it will give leading produce retailers in the U.S. the opportunity to meet with buyers from major foreign retailers. The coordinated one-on-one meetings provide a space separate from the summit activities where buyers and suppliers have dedicated time to discuss potential export partnerships.
The membership of the Organic Trade Associations provides the bulk of U.S. organic exports. The market promotion activities administered by the association are open to the entire organic industry, not just association members.
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