Big Picture Report: July 2021
Bernadette Wiltz-Lang, SUSTA
Trending: Sustainability and Market Diversification
We’re fresh off of the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council (USAEDC) Attaché Conference last week. The USAEDC is an umbrella organization of 80-plus members including national commodity trade associations, farmer cooperatives and the state regional trade groups – like SUSTA – who represent producers and exporters of food, fiber and seafood. It provides a forum and structure for its members to exchange information collectively as well as with other groups, individuals and relevant federal agencies.
Each year, USAEDC gathers to host and hear from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) personnel stationed in U.S. embassies around the globe sharing insight and intelligence about key export markets and overall global trends. This year a key focus was the global consumer trend in demand for sustainability.
Participants got a briefing on the 90-day update report on USDA’s efforts at developing a Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy (CSAF). The strategy is to support new and better markets – both domestic and global - for food, agriculture and forestry products generated through sustainable practices. USDA’s plan is to leverage its existing programs from production to marketing support to support the CSAFS.
For example, FAS is creating a series of 40 videos to communicate to European consumers the positive qualities of U.S. agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The message will counter any misperceptions about American products by highlighting the positives of such issues as agricultural innovation, sustainability, and the high quality and safety of U.S. food products.
We’re happy that the initial round of this project will include a video highlighting the production and harvesting of products that go into that classic Southern dish, gumbo. The video will educate European importers, buyers and consumers on the sustainability of the seafood industry and rice production, as well as the personal connection to food developed through inter-generational recipes and restaurants. This trend in marketing the environmental and social benefits of U.S. food and agricultural products isn’t just for the big corporate brands – it is of growing importance to small brands as well.
Another key message of the conference was balancing your export portfolio by getting in early on new markets. The Foreign Agricultural Service underscored the near term growth opportunities in Southeast Asia, Central America, and Africa.
Even in the COVID disrupted year of 2020, SUSTA companies in the 50% CostShare program maintained sales in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. SUSTA’s 2020 Central America Virtual Trade mission netted sales for companies in the Global Events program, with participants providing feedback after the event confirming the quality of import buyers they met through the event. Moreover, 50% CostShare program sales to Africa – despite COVID – grew 205 percent in 2020, to $7.3 million. That was the largest growth region under the program.
This annual meeting with USDA overseas personnel and the chance to compare notes with other U.S. export promotion groups is always a valuable resource for SUSTA, which we use to develop strategies and activities to support and benefit your export marketing programs. Check your MySUSTA account to see what is in store and check out some of the market research from USDA and the market intelligence from our in-country consultants. You can also sign up for one-on-one virtual consultations with our in-country experts to ask your own questions.