Sean Ellis/Capital Press
BOISE — The Idaho Bean Commission will use an $18,000 specialty crop grant to try to help the state’s dry bean industry make inroads into Costa Rica.
The Central American nation of 4.6 million people is one of the Idaho industry’s most promising markets, said IBC member Don Tolmie.
“That Costa Rica project probably has as much potential to increase our exports of dry bean seed as anything we’ve ever attempted,” said Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co.
Idaho has a strict testing program that certifies bean seed grown in the state is disease-free and is the leading bean seed supplier in the nation.
Costa Rican farmers grow a lot of dry beans but that crop faces significant disease pressure there, an issue Idaho can help solve.
“They need a shot in the arm,” Tolmie said. “A good crop of dry beans begins with good seed.”
During a trade mission in February, Tolmie and fellow IBC member John Dean met with representatives of Walmart in Costa Rica and a company that supplies them with red and black beans.
Both companies are interested in certified Idaho seed, Tolmie said, and the project will help Idaho nurture a relationship with them.
The grant, supplied by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, will allow the commission to take preferred local varieties in Costa Rica that face substantial disease pressure and grown them in a disease-free environment in Idaho.
After that seed is certified, it will be grown in trial plots in Costa Rica so growers there can see first-had the benefits of using certified Idaho seed, said IBC Administrator Andi Woolf.
She said the project could pay off big for Idaho’s dry bean industry. “Costa Rica is a very promising market for us.”
The quality issues Costa Rican bean farmers face are serious and they are clamoring for an answer, Tolmie said.
But he also said growers there don’t fully grasp how complex the process of certifying bean seed is and Idaho’s industry needs to prove to them the value of investing in certified seed.
“They’re begging for clean seed but they don’t understand how complex clean seed is,” he said. “We’re going to have to help educate these folks about that process.”