Trade missions provide an opportunity for Northarvest Bean Growers Association to promote its commodity
During the past two years, Northarvest Bean Growers Association members and staff went on trade missions.
Each year, Minnesota and North Dakota edible bean dealers and growers participate in trade missions around the world that provide opportunities to showcase their commodity to buyers.
During the past two years, Northarvest Bean Growers Association members went on several trade missions. The missions included several countries in South America, the Middle East and Europe to talk about Minnesota- and North Dakota-grown beans with potential buyers.
Cordell Huebsch, a Perham, Minnesota, bean grower attended Alimentaria, one of the world’s premier food and beverage industry shows, held in Barcelona, Spain, in April 2022. Huebsch talked with Spanish buyers who asked him production and was able to dispel misinformation about how beans were grown, he said.
The buyers were pleased to talk to a farmer, and that gave him credibility and status similar to a celebrity, Huebsch said.
“It’s one thing to talk to someone who is willing to sell you something, for an answer, and it’s another thing to have someone doing the farming," he said. "I was able to have a lot of great conversations about how we grow things in the Upper Midwest.”
The buyers, meanwhile, also appreciated meeting Huebsch because it provided them with an opportunity to tell their end-users they had met the farmer who grew the beans they were purchasing.
The buyers Kevin Regan met on his trade trip to Peru and Chile held from Nov. 12-19, 2022, also appreciated talking to a farmer, Regan said. The buyers asked him questions about what kind of beans he raised and the production methods he used, said Regan, who grows pinto and black beans on his farm near Webster, North Dakota.
The South American buyers were unanimous in their assertion that United States farmers grow the best quality edible beans in the world, Regan said.
“We’re trying to get a logo put on because buyers know that if it’s U.S. beans, it’s a high quality product,” he said.
A tour of the wholesale markets in Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile, revealed that edible beans that originated in other parts of the world were poorer quality, Regan said.
“Hats off to producers in the United States,” he said.
However, some buyers in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic were critical of beans grown in North Dakota and Minnesota and commented that they were inferior to beans they purchase from other U.S. states, said Jennifer Hansen, who participated in a trade mission sponsored by Great Lakes Governors and Premiers. Hansen, financial manager of Northarvest Bean Growers Association went on the trade trip held Sept. 11-16, 2022.
For example, the Walmart buyer in Costa Rica said that the taste and texture of small red beans grown by Northarvest farmers break down after two days, which is not optimal because people cook a pot of beans early in the week and eat it throughout the week. That buyer mainly chooses to purchase beans from Nebraska and Michigan, Hansen said.
Hansen suggested that a research project be conducted to look at ways to make small red beans grown in North Dakota and Minnesota more palatable and less prone to break down.
Learning about the destination of the edible beans he raises and the demand for them was a highlight of the GULF food show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that Ryan Peterson, a Clear Lake, Minnesota, attended from Feb. 20-24, 2023.
During Peterson’s time sitting in a booth, food show attendees looked at the many varieties of beans on display, including kidneys, navies and great northerns, Peterson said.
The people who visited the booth had preferences not only for the classes of beans, but the degree of quality and form in which they wanted them. Some wanted polished beans, some wanted splits that could be used as ingredients in products such as soups, and some inquired about what kind of packaging was available for the beans, Peterson said.
Logistics and policy were the focus of a trade mission in which Eric Samuelson, who grows edible beans near Crookston, Minnesota, went on as a delegate in November 2021. Samuelson, Northarvest Bean Growers Association president, participated in the trade mission to the United Kingdom that was commissioned by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota trade office.
Samuelson participated in discussions about trade policy, transportation issues and legislation.
“Their farm bill planning is totally different,” he said. The UK focused on issues such as sustainability and plant based protein, he said.
Because those issues are relevant in the international market, U.S. edible bean growers should devise a plan so they can address customers’ questions about the issues, Samuelson said.