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China gets a taste of North Dakota: Traveling teams visits East for sales, education function

FARGO -- China got a little taste of North Dakota this month when companies and organizations from the state traveled there to demonstrate how foods grown here can be incorporated into Chinese food products.

The "Better for You Food Ingredients" events March 19 and 21 in Beijing and Guangzhou, China, were organized by the North Dakota Trade Office, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the Northern Crops Institute on the campus of North Dakota State University.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring was part of the team that traveled to China.

The trip served both a sales and an educational function, and more than 150 Chinese buyers, research and development specialists and food manufacturers attended the events.

Brian Andrew, senior marketing manager for Fargo-based Red River Commodities Inc., was one of the team members and met a number of potential customers. He believes those relationships will result in "significant new business."

Business transactions are more relational in China, "and take much longer to happen than the business style that we're used to in the U.S. and northern Europe, which are more transactional," Andrew said Tuesday at a news conference at NCI. "These guys like to develop a relationship with you."

The events provided "an opportunity to have NDSU and Northern Crops Institute show how to utilize some of these different commodities as food ingredients to help increase the nutritional value and extend the shelf life on some of those products and provide a better texture and quality," Goehring said.

North Dakota companies traveled to China a year ago to make some initial contacts, said Dean Gorder, executive director of the trade office. "This year we looked at trying to accelerate that success, so we chose to do both an educational as well as a sales event."

Many of the Chinese companies that attended the events will be invited to North Dakota in October, when organizers will put together a reverse trade mission for them, Gorder said.

The trip is part of a larger effort by North Dakota to reach into that part of the world.

"The first week in December, we'll have a trade mission that goes to Singapore and the Philippines," Gorder said. "Last fall, we went to Vietnam and Indonesia. So yes, it's a concerted effort in Southeast Asia."

He said next year at this time, "we'll be back in China. And then we'll set up basically a schedule where we've got a group here in the fall, we go there in the spring."