Garza: Taking Washington ag to new places


Staffers from the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s international marketing program promote “Washington grown” produce in Japan at a trade show in March. (Courtesy Washington State Department of Agriculture)

WSDA’s international marketing program matches qualified buyers with Washington companies selling raw products, such as apples and cherries, and value-added agriculture products like cider and beer, through inbound and outbound trade missions and trade shows. The department has in-market representatives providing coverage in Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central America, the Middle East, Taiwan and South America, and it continues work to develop other markets as well.

For the past two years, the global pandemic has hampered international trade, and agriculture has been among the hardest hit industries.

International marketing partners with the Washington State Department of Agriculture recognize the increasing pressure that border closures, container shortages and shipping delays have on growers and exporters. We continue to work to expand Washington exports in other regions of the world, seeing potential in some new regions even as others may lag, and we want our growers, shippers and marketers to know how they, too, can play a role.

Through June this year, WSDA will have represented Washington products at trade shows in several countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Colombia, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan. Trade missions tailored to the cider and wine industries are scheduled for Canada in June and August, and trade missions and trade shows are scheduled this fall for the broader food and agriculture industry in Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea and Mexico.

The latter is emblematic of WSDA’s efforts to grow Latin America as a market for Washington products. The region has always shown great potential, especially Mexico, which has become one of our leading markets, but we are increasingly looking to our southern neighbors in search of additional opportunities.

Zack Garza
Zack Garza

I’ve often heard people say “Mexico is not ready for that” over the years when talking exports. But once consumers there were educated and exposed to products we already enjoy here in the U.S. — say, Washington apples — they became fans over time.

Along a similar track, we’ll be participating in a trade show in June in Colombia, where we hope to gain interesting sales leads for our Washington companies. And in September, interested companies will have the opportunity to join WSDA and the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association at the Espacio Food and Service trade show in Santiago, Chile, one of the largest trade shows in South America. The show offers an excellent opportunity to showcase food products and meet one-on-one with local and regional buyers.

I’ve never been one to buy into the idea that something will “never fly here” when talking about exports to a given region. Being of Latin American descent, I’ve always believed that if I like a product, others in the region will, too. And if we can get it there and make it reasonably affordable, the purchasing power is there. It’s not always the right time, you just have to be patient. We’ve seen that patience pay off in other markets around the world.

From Aug. 8 to 12, WSDA will host its marketing contractors from around the world in Washington, both in Seattle and Yakima, for in-person meetings with Washington companies. It’s a chance to visit at one time with our representatives from Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central America, and it’s a great opportunity to hear from people on the ground in a specific market about the trends they see there.

WSDA will be returning to the International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce and Floral Show (formerly known as PMA) in Orlando, Florida, in October. It’s a domestic show but with an international presence, and several spots remain open to companies who want to join the Washington pavilion.

The beauty of WSDA’s international marketing department is that we cover the globe. We often have available on-the-ground resources, as well as market research and export guidance, for companies interested in entering a potential market. Those same resources are available even after entering a market, perhaps to assist with a border problem or paperwork issue. We have an open-door mentality: There is no wrong question. Even if it’s not something we directly handle, we are available to assist with sales problems in other markets. The ability to combine the efforts of WSDA with the tree fruit industry’s dedicated marketers in foreign markets offers a big advantage for Washington exporters to get a foot in and get in early.

I once heard a quote that stuck with me from international marketing expert James Foley: “He who hits first, hits twice.” Since then, my views on international trade have changed. Developing export markets takes time and patience, and given the opportunity, our Washington products can really flourish. I feel that way about the world. •

by Zachary Garza

Zachary Garza is a trade specialist in the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s International Marketing Program and the WSDA representative to the Washington State Fruit Commission. For more information about WSDA’s programs, visit bit.ly/wsda-events or call 360-902-1940. Garza can be reached directly by email at: zgarza@agr.wa.gov or by phone at: 509-731-0197.



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