When Michigan Governor Rick Snyder took office in 2011, his administration made it a goal to double the state’s agriculture exports in five years. Starting at US$1.75 billion in exports in 2010, the U.S. state hopes to build on commodities such as apples, blueberries and cherries to reach its 2015 goal of US$3.5 billion. Michigan Department of Agriculture’s Jamie Zmitko-Somers spoke with www.freshfruitportal.com about the trade missions and marketing efforts pushing the state closer to its goal.
“The apple, cherry and blueberry industries are putting a lot of effort into increasing their exports because they know that with the increases in production, there won’t be enough domestic consumers for all of that production,” the international marketing program manager said.
“In order to keep prices stable for growers, they need to look at consumers outside of the U.S.”
The state has cast a broad, international net to help growers and processors find markets abroad. Efforts by the state have included trade shows and trade missions to promote local products. Latin America, and Brazil in particular, have been on the radar in recent years.
“This year we did a trade mission to Brazil where we looked at opportunities for apples, blueberries and dried fruit. There seems to be a lot of good potential in that market and we’re hoping to see sales there that come from the trip,” she said.
“Blueberries are kind of a new thing. When we were in Brazil, we found a couple of people that were bringing blueberries in and consumers were paying very top dollar to get them. It’s kind of a delicacy, so to speak. We’re hoping to capture some of that market.”
The first fruit sales have yet to be established between Brazil and Michigan, but the program manager said exporters are hopeful to start sending goods within the year.
Trade missions have also been conducted recently by the department in Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Zmitko-Somers explained that Michigan has the advantage of offering fruits that may not be so readily available to more tropical climates found in Central America.
Currently about 60% of Michigan’s overall agricultural exports go to neighboring Canada, according to government statistics. The state also has established markets in Mexico, Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan.
Although many markets are already established in Asia, Zmitko-Somers said the state sees great potential for the region.
“In Korea, we have companies that are working there but we see a lot of growth potential in that market because the tariff on dried fruit has been upwards of 40%. With the free trade agreement, that will come down over the next 10 years. We certainly see that there’s going to be a lot more sales as that tariff comes down to eventually 0,” she said.
“In China, we are starting to get companies in there for processed products. So that’s an emerging market we’re really exploring. Unfortunately, blueberries are something they really want but U.S. fresh blueberries are not allowed into the market. So we can only send them processed blueberries.”
With broad market possibilities, Zmitko-Somers said the state is confident it will reach its trade goal and possibly more.
“Doubling that [value] is great but we’re working to do even more than that and working to get even more companies exporting. We have that goal but we’re not going to stop when we reach it. We’re going to keep doing more to try to increase our ranking in the U.S. and improve our exports,” she said.