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Mexican demand for oilseed soars following trade mission

Increased production could make up for potato plant closure, Lt. Gov. Little says


Capital Press

MEXICO CITY -- Idaho's recent trade mission to Mexico could translate into good news for oilseed producers in Idaho and other Northwestern states.

Mountain States Oilseeds, which contracts about 30,000 acres in Idaho and other western states, departed that country with more demand than production capability.

"That's a great problem to have," said MSO President Jason Godfrey, who met with a current customer in Mexico City and several other potential customers. "We feel the Mexican market is prime and ready for (more) oilseeds and hopefully we can supply their needs."

Godfrey said Mountain States received more orders from the primary company it is doing business with in Mexico and several other companies he met with requested bids and samples.

He said the company's biggest problem now is convincing farmers to grow enough oilseeds to fill soaring demand in Mexico.

Headquartered in American Falls in east Idaho, Mountain States Oilseeds contracts with about 100 growers in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and other intermountain west states who grow flax, mustard, safflower, rapeseed, canola and sunflower.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who led the trade mission, said he's excited about the possibility of Idaho farmers selling more oilseeds to Mexico, especially since Mountain States and much of the acres it contracts for are located in the same area that J.R. Simplot Co. recently announced it would shutter one of its main potato processing plants.

Little is concerned about how the closure will affect farmers and the local economy. "If the oilseed guys have success down there, it might make those communities and farmers more stable," he said.

One of Mountain States' most promising leads during the trade mission was a meeting with Grupo Bimbo, one of the largest food companies in the world. Godfrey said Bimbo officials are interested in flaxseed because it's rich in omega-3 fatty acids and they believe the market for that cholesterol-lowering ingredient is going to increase rapidly.

"I feel they are on the forefront with their flax bread and flax products seeing a very dramatic increase," he said.

Idaho enjoys a considerable freight advantage because it's located much closer to Mexico than other main oilseed producing areas such as North Dakota, Montana and Canada, Godfrey said.

"You just look at a map and you can see the advantage," he said. "We're about a thousand miles closer to this market and I think the buyers in Mexico realize our advantages."

Godfrey doesn't expect to have a difficult time convincing growers to plant more oilseed acres once they realize the potential market for them.

"The interest level down here (in Mexico) is unbelievable," he said. "We think growers are starting to realize that this stuff will work (economically). That they can grow this crop, this crop is good for their ground, and that they can make money at it."

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