Specialty crop grant earmarked by IEOOC for export market expansion

A $ 40,000 specialty crop grant from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture is being used by the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee’s export committee to seek additional outlets for Spanish Sweets in foreign markets.

IEOOC’s federal marketing order represents more than 300 growers and 36 shippers in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho-Eastern Oregon, and currently 22 shippers are exporting Spanish Sweets to foreign markets.exporttrademission2IEOOC Export Committee Vice Chair Joe Standage (right) meets with an importer/distributor during an early November trade mission to Brazil. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Department of Agriculture Markets Division) The export committee members are Joe Farmer, Fort Boise Produce, chairman; Logan Skeen, Skeen Farms, secretary/treasurer; Joe Standage, Standage Produce, vice chair; Tim Gluch, Golden West Produce; Bill Hartman, Hartman Farms; and Weston Schulties, Schulties Farms.

The grant was approved earlier in 2014, and IEOOC Executive Director Candi Fitch said it has expanded the export committee’s capacity for promotions in Mexico as well as for trade missions to Central America and South America over a two-year period.

“It has really increased our budget,” Fitch said in mid-November, shortly after a trade mission to Brazil had provided members of the committee insight into that South American country’s foodservice marketplace.

Standage told The Produce News the trip to Brazil, which was his inaugural trade mission, was eye-opening both to him and to the importers and distributors in that country.

“We went there primarily to inform buyers about our larger onions, the colossals and super colossals,” Standage said. “We hope to educate them at the foodservice level about our onions, and we were also seeing first-hand the volume of onions they go through. Brazil is a big consumer of onions, and they do grow them there in different growing regions much like we have in this country. What we want to impress upon them is that we are an outlet to fill gaps in their crop and also that we have something that no one else does: our big Spanish Sweets.”

Standage went on to say that Brazil’s middle class is increasing, which in turn will lead to an increase in restaurant dining and more demand for foodservice onions.

Fitch said another trade mission to Colombia is scheduled for February, and Standage will accompany members of the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association on that trip.

As the committee continues making inroads into Latin markets — a yellow onion program is increasing awareness in Mexico’s retail markets for the Spanish Sweets — Canada remains the number one buyer of IEOOC exported product.

“We are always looking for new opportunities to build our export markets, and Canada is not only our largest but also a market that continues to grow,” Fitch said.

The committee has implemented a number of steps to reach out to offshore buyers, including shipper directories in Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and French Canadian. All of the directories are downloadable from usaonions.com.

“And we want buyers to know that while our focus has traditionally been on North America, Central America and South America, our export shippers send onions worldwide. We’re not limited to any area, and we ship to wherever phytosanitary regulations allow us to ship,” she said.

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