Visit to Hong Kong led to promotion of Washington produce in several stores
By STEVE BROWN
Even as Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire leads a trade mission to China and Vietnam this month, the state's businesses reap benefits from previous trips to Asia.
During last fall's trip, Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse and Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba stopped in Hong Kong. A visit with an executive chef for ParknShop, who had an affinity for Pacific Northwest foods, led to the promotion of products at the Hong Kong retailer's 250 stores.
News media in Hong Kong homed in on July's ParknShop in-store promotion, where consumers sampled products and watched cooking demonstrations.
"Initial sales results are very promising," said Charles Witzleben, president of SuperValu International, a major wholesaler and grocery retailer based in Tacoma that participated in the promotion. "ParknShop intends to add a number of the new items to their everyday range for ongoing sales."
The current trade mission, Sept. 13-24, includes seven Washington state officials and about 80 representatives from state agriculture, business and education, said Jason Kelly, WSDA communications director. The group will meet with industry leaders in agriculture, aerospace, clean energy and education in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, China, and in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Exports are especially critical to the state, which is the most trade-dependent state in the U.S. as far as per-capita impact, he said. "International trade supports the prices growers get for their products."
Kelly cited the results from a 2005 trip to Japan and China, which resulted in immediate sales of $1 million to Japan and $6 million to China. The new business gained from that trip is expected to generate $23 million in new sales for Washington companies in subsequent years, he said.
B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission, said, "We joined Gov. Gregoire on her mission to China in 2005. At the time, growers did not ship cherries directly to China. Within the next year, several Chinese importer contacts that were made on the 2005 mission took the risk of importing cherries directly to Shanghai."
Matt Harris, director of trade at the Washington State Potato Commission, said his efforts during that 2005 trip were to emphasize the importance of Washington fresh potatoes. "There is currently no access. We're still negotiating. It helps to have the governor representing our interests."
This year's mission includes representatives from the state potato commission, apple commission and fruit commission. Seven Washington state employees will be on the mission, including Newhouse and Commerce Director Rogers Weed.