By STEVE BROWN
BELLEVUE, Wash. -- John Hannah's business has grown about 10 percent over the past 10 to 15 years, and he credits the Washington State Department of Agriculture for a large part of that growth.
Hannah's Pacific Valley Foods exports a variety of frozen foods to Asia through customer connections he made through the WSDA's International Marketing Office.
Trade missions organized by the WSDA, along with trade shows and exhibitions, have averaged every other month for about 10 years, he said, and the effort has borne fruit "even through the recession."
The success did not happen all at once, but over time Pacific Valley Foods has developed lasting customers.
"Some, though, are in for one order and then they're gone," Hannah said. "Price shoppers."
The exporter works with several processors and growers, shipping frozen vegetables, potato products and fruit, along with dried fruit. At least 80 percent of product the company sends to Asia is Washington-grown.
Connecting more Washington companies with foreign buyers is the goal of upcoming buying missions sponsored by the WSDA.
Growers of fresh fruits and vegetables will meet with buyers during the Southeast Asia Inbound Fresh Retail Buying Mission Showcase, scheduled for Aug. 29-31. Growers can meet one-on-one or they can host a visit with the buyers.
Inbound Buying Missions from China, Mexico, Taiwan and Japan will meet one-on-one with small agricultural or food processing companies that participated in export advising clinics presented by the WSDA in April. Those events will be Sept. 17-21.
Cameron Crump, acting program manager for international marketing, said the second event is "more of an exploratory-type mission to learn about the market, both buyers and sellers."
Foreign buyers have come to expect a dependable supply of safe, quality food from Washington, Crump said, and the overseas market is practically unlimited.
According to the WSDA, exports of Washington-grown agricultural products grew during the first half of fiscal 2012, increasing from $3.4 billion in the first half of 2011 to $4.4 billion for the first half of 2012.
"Everybody needs to eat," Crump said. "Once we get buyers into the state and onto our farms and production facilities, we're almost guaranteed a sale. We can bring in five or six buyers at the same time at no cost (to the producers). All will be serious buyers."
Rebecca Weber, at 509-735-3666, is the contact for the Aug. 29-31 meetings. They are supported by Market Access Funds from the Western U.S. Departments of Agriculture.
Julie Johnson, at 360-902-1940, is the contact for the Sept. 17-21 meetings. These are funded by a Small Business Administration grant.
http://agr.wa.gov (click on Marketing)