Oregon and Washington have teamed up to promote Pacific Northwest potatoes in Southeast Asia and conduct early market development in Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao.
Potato commissions and state agricultural directors from both states returned encouraged after a November trade trip that they hope will lead to great opportunities for many food crops.
"This was a very productive mission, but there is a lot of follow-up work to do," says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba, who was joined on the mission by Dan Newhouse, her counterpart in Washington.
"I give a great deal of credit to the potato industry and commissioners for conducting a joint Oregon-Washington trade mission, and inviting the directors of agriculture from both states," says Coba. "We think pooling resources and efforts is the way to go. You get more bang for your buck. Having the two states together gives us much more a presence, particularly when our states' agriculture is similar.
"The market itself doesn't see any difference between the two states."
Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, the mission follows a similar trip two years ago, combining the efforts of both states in Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong. The latest mission included a stop in Hong Kong, but also focused on relatively new markets centrally located to high populations of potential customers.
"Half of the world's population lives within a five-hour plane ride of this region, so it's clearly an area of market influence and dominance," says ODA Assistant Director Dalton Hobbs, also a member of the delegation.
"It is a region of great potential for Pacific Northwest agriculture. This kind of mission is an appropriate way to tap that potential through early trade development activities, jointly conducted by the private sector and government, to introduce products and identify trade channels."
While more established export markets such as Japan, China and South Korea continue to be primary destinations for Oregon products – each were a part of a September trade mission that included Coba and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber – the potato industry is highly motivated to develop a market in Southeast Asia and its success could pave the way for others.
As with real estate, success in marketing agriculture largely depends on one overriding factor, says Hobbs.
"It's location, location, location," he says. "These four markets we visited benefit from their proximity to so many people. It's what sets them apart."