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Trade mission is about creating relationships

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 08/15/2013 12:42 PM

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Two Minnesota companies and the state's agriculture commissioner were among a delegation that traveled to Turkey in June as part of a U.S.-Turkey Agribusiness Trade Mission.

Midwest Ag Enterprises of Marshall and Knewtson Soy Products of Good Thunder were represented on the trip.

Knewtson Soy Products is a family owned farm, soybean seed and export company.

Midwest Ag Enterprises is a privately held company. It exports high quality feed ingredients.

Turkey is a rapidly developing economy with an expanding middle class, making it a key emerging market for U.S. food and agricultural products, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. U.S. agricultural exports to the country have tripled over the last decade. In fiscal year 2012, two-way agricultural trade between the two countries reached more than $2.4 billion, with U.S. exports accounting for more than 75 percent of the total.

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said he had a busy schedule while in Turkey. The delegation made site visits, including visiting a large retail store akin to a Wal-Mart or Costco and a regular grocery store. They also visited a tannery that buys hides from Twin City Hide.

Non-processed hides are shipped from Minnesota to Turkey to be processed into seat covers ready to be installed in high-end automobiles.

They also visited a hardwood importer. The importer produces furniture from U.S. hardwoods for sale in Europe. The representative from Pennsylvania was particularly interested in this opportunity, Frederickson said.

They attended an open house at the Counsel General's office. Frederickson said he kept asking himself what a guy from Murdock was doing there.

They met with grain importers, drove past a Syrian refuge camp and saw smoke rising from protests in Taksim Gezi Park.

Jim Moline, owner and president of Midwest Ag, said Turkey is a developing market and an important opportunity. The country has a fairly decent aquaculture industry and soybeans are being marketed as a replacement to fishmeal, which is dwindling in supply.

He attended an event where USDA had lined up companies for the U.S. companies to get to know based on their potential to do business together.

It was a useful event, Moline said. He gained an understanding of how people do business in Turkey. All countries are different, he said.

Every time he goes on a trade mission, he comes home with a lot of business cards and contacts.

An exporter for close to 17 years, Moline explained the process of building export contacts as similar to building a house. A person must first lay the foundation.

He may not make a sale for a while, but he may see the same people in six to 12 months if they make a trip to the United States. If he attends a trade show in that region, he may run into some of them.

Getting to know the culture and how people do business is important, he said.

The country of 80 million is 99.8 percent Muslim, Frederickson said, with the rest Christian and Jewish. They raise a diversity of crops, including peanuts, cotton, tobacco, citrus, pulse and sugar beets. They also raise livestock.

Seventy percent of people live in urban areas. The coexistence of new and old is striking, Frederickson said. They drove down a highway and met a Mercedes-Benz, while in the median, a boy was herding goats to the green median to graze.

The war in Syria was 30 miles from them at one point.

Turkey is a lovely country and the people are wonderful, Frederickson said. The history of the country is incredible, with bridges dating back to the fifth century.

The goal of the trade mission is to grow the business between the United States and Turkey.

A total of 20 companies were represented on the trip along with representatives from the state agriculture departments in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.