As a giant in agricultural production with a relatively small population, Minnesota has developed into an export powerhouse, selling a large portion of its agricultural products abroad.
From establishing new markets to gaining global brand recognition, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture works closely with businesses, both large and small, to further grow and optimize the state’s agricultural exports.
According to the department’s Agricultural Export Report, the state totaled $8 billion in agricultural exports in 2013.
“Minnesota ranked third in ag exports among all U.S. states, moving up from fourth in 2012,” says Su Ye, chief economist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. As if this wasn’t good news enough, since 2000, the state’s agricultural exports show an impressive 252 percent increase, much higher than the U.S. average of 182 percent. Although many factors play into this substantial growth, one key player is China.
“China has been Minnesota’s top ag export market since 2009, and will remain our top market for many years to come. About one-fourth of Minnesota’s ag exports are shipped to China,” explains Ye. Top exports include soybeans, coarse grains (excluding corn), distiller dried grains, dairy, pork, feed and poultry.
In addition to China, the state’s primary export markets are Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. However, emerging markets like Indonesia, Turkey, Vietnam and countries in Africa demonstrate strong growth potential. With global market demand firmly in place, the next step will be encouraging more farmers and businesses to start exporting their agricultural commodities abroad.
Building Export Success
From large corporations to small manufacturing companies, exporting has its hurdles. For Minnesotans, these challenges can easily be overcome by utilizing the numerous resources available through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
“The hard part is always how do you set yourself apart,” says Caleb Krienke, owner of Pop’d Kerns, which recently started exporting its all-natural, whole-grain popcorn to Japan, Panama, Venezuela, Australia and Spain, among others. For Krienke, the path to gaining brand acceptance internationally starts with targeting the right market – health-conscious consumers – and participating in export trade shows supported by the Department of Agriculture.
“It went so well in the Asian markets that now we’re looking at what we can do in the Philippines, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia,” confirms Krienke, adding that registering the product in each country is just the beginning of a long process, but it’s a good start.
By the end of 2015, he hopes Pop’d Kerns will be in 10 to 15 different countries.
“If it weren’t for MDA (Minnesota Department of Agriculture),” he says, “I probably wouldn’t have started looking at exporting, which has helped me to hire new employees, increase sales and move to a new facility. It’s helped us gain momentum.”