By SEAN ELLIS
MEXICO CITY - Idaho officials believe their recently concluded trade mission to Brazil and the first day of their mission to Mexico have resulted in some promising leads.
“This is still part of the dating process,” Lt. Gov. Brad Little said Thursday, Dec. 8, five days into the state’s trade mission to the two countries. “We didn’t seal any marriages but we did some pretty good dancing.”
While no direct sales have resulted from the mission so far, several Idaho agricultural companies made contact with high-level officials from important Mexican companies and agencies, some of which hinted strongly they want to do business sooner rather than later.
During a meeting with supermarket chain Soriana, Mexico’s second-largest retailer, company director Miguel de la Pena Silva dispensed with the interpreter at one point and told trade mission participants, “We are happy to be in business with you.”
Silva said Soriana already sells a lot of Idaho products, including frozen potato products, onions, apples and salad dressing, but added, “We do believe we can do more tomorrow.”
He said the company welcomes “the opportunity to find new business with you.”
Representatives of several Idaho agricultural commodities were invited to Soriana’s in-store promotion of Idaho products, the first time one of the company’s promotions has focused on anything other than a product or label.
The promotion will run in four Soriana stores in Mexico City for seven days and will promote the name “Idaho” to Mexican consumers.
“That was Idaho’s day in the sun and I thought it was a great day for the Gem State,” said Celia Gould, director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
Earlier in the day, state officials and potato industry representatives met with Felipe Arteaga, president of La Huerta, the top producer of frozen vegetables in Mexico.
Arteaga expressed significant interest in several frozen potato products offered by Teton Valley Ranch, a division of Nonpariel. He asked several times what the ingredients were in a frozen baked potato that can quickly be prepared and seemed to hardly believe it was simply a Russet potato with no preservatives.
“It’s just a frozen baked potato,” he was assured by Mark Gabrylczyk, the company’s national foodservice manager for frozen products. “That’s the only ingredient I’m trying to sell you.”
“And is it 100 percent potato?” Arteaga asked another time about a similar product.
“One hundred percent potato,” Gabrylczyk assured him.
Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer believes the Brazil leg of the mission, while not as ag-centric as the Mexico leg, was well worth the trip and will pay off in the future.
“Everywhere we went, people literally wanted to know more about Idaho products,” he said. “They were genuinely interested.”
Sayer said there are good opportunities for ag equipment dealers in Brazil as well as value-added ag commodities such as frozen or dry potato products.
Mexico, on the other hand, is an established market for Idaho ag products and Gould said the interest shown just during the first half of the first day in that country confirmed the importance of continuing to invest time and resources there.
“This is just too important of a market not to come down here every couple of years,” she said. “We need to continue to cement those relationships.”