Idaho bean producers look to foreign markets
BOISE — Idaho’s dry bean industry is looking, and heading, south for its next big opportunity.
Two members of the Idaho Bean Commission will visit Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic Feb. 23-March 1 to explore the possibility of selling them dry bean seed.
Their trip will be part of a trade mission funded by the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association.
“The great (untapped) opportunities in the dry bean industry are in South America,” said IBC member Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. “I don’t think we can pass up those opportunities. We need to be there.”
A strict testing program that certifies Idaho bean seed is disease-free has made Idaho the leading dry bean seed producer in the nation.
“Countries in that part of the world are looking for quality seed and we think we can fill that void,” said Eden farmer Doug Carlquist, the IBC chairman.
The Dominican Republic consumes a large amount of cranberry beans, said Idaho Seed Bean Co. President John Dean.
“Our goal is to go and try to make some contacts and hopefully increase the amount of seed we sell into the Dominican Republic,” said Dean, who will join Tolmie on the trip. “It could be a nice little seed market for us.”
Costa Rica is a large consumer of dry beans and grows a lot of its own beans, but the nation’s bean farmers face serious quality issues, Tolmie said.
“They lose a lot of beans to disease, so getting a clean bean seed source is of pretty high importance to those folks,” he said. “They get less and less production out of more and more acres.”
Both nations are promising export markets for Idaho agricultural products because of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement signed in 2004, Amanda Gibson, a market development specialist with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, said.
The value of Idaho ag exports to the Dominican Republic totaled $2.9 million in 2012, a 12 percent increase over 2011.
The value of Idaho ag exports to Costa Rica in 2012 jumped 133 percent to $892,000.
Gibson said the department sees significant opportunity in those countries for multiple Idaho farm commodities, particularly onions, beans, bean seed, potatoes, peas, chickpeas, lentils, dairy and packaged or processed items.