AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho — The staff at Mountain States Oilseeds has been busy working on bids to supply safflower and flax to Taiwan since two company representatives returned from a state-sponsored trade mission on Nov. 18.
The Idaho governor’s office, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and the Idaho Department of Commerce have for decades collaborated on foreign trade missions to boost demand for Idaho goods.
ISDA’s market development coordinator, Laura Johnson, said several Idaho agricultural businesses returned from a recent eight-day mission to Taiwan and Vietnam with promising new leads for marketing their goods.
“Every trade mission we’ve been on, we come back and make bids and get additional business,” said Bill Meadows, owner of Mountain States Oilseeds. “You get to meet companies that there would be no way you could meet on your own.”
Meadows believes the trade mission could result in 50,000 to 75,000 bushels of additional safflower sales to Taiwan. Meadows estimates he would need to contract with Eastern Idaho farmers for an additional 2,500 acres of safflower to fill a 50,000-bushel order.
“My feeling right now is that if our bids (in Taiwan) develop, we will be able to go out and contract the (safflower) acres people want to grow,” Meadows said, explaining the domestic market for safflower birdseed has been slowing down. “If they don’t, we may need to cut back.”
Meadows said a Taiwanese company has expressed interest in buying multi-colored safflower for the birdseed market. Another customer in Taiwan wanted safflower for crushing into cooking oil, and one major buyer was interested in acquiring finished oil, which would represent a new market for Mountain States Oilseeds. Meadows said he would likely work with mills in California or Montana to produce the oil from his safflower, but demand for finished oil could eventually justify opening a small, local crushing facility.
Meadows said he’s also submitting bids to supply up to 4 million pounds of flax to a company that uses it for animal feed and markets the resulting animal products at a premium for the high levels of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids they derive from the oilseed.
Johnson said the mission also bore fruit for other participants. A Vietnamese company that’s rapidly growing in the dairy sector, called Vinamilk, announced plans to import 20,000 head of dairy heifers during the next five years and has been “impressed with Idaho,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Taiwan flour millers expressed interest in buying more wheat varieties in the future that lend themselves well to boiling and steaming.
Furthermore, she said Mayfull Foods, a food importer, hosted a week-long Idaho foods promotion at the Grand Mayfull Hotel in Taiwan, where customers lined up to try Idaho beef served by ISDA Director Celia Gould, as well as Idaho potatoes, onions and tortillas.