Agriculture department spurs exports
International Market Development Coordinator Barbara Charlet is constantly finding new ways to market Oklahoma's agricultural products to foreign markets. With 18 years of experience in the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry she knows markets from Toronto to Tokyo.
Charlet and her colleagues in ODAFF's Market Development Division work with the Southern US Trade Association to promote agricultural exports and place U.S. products in markets around the world. Market research and promotional trade events for Oklahoma companies are among the trade activities they coordinate to help local companies take the first step into markets beyond our borders.
Charlet and her staff recently persuaded six food companies to participate in a Canadian trade mission for the first time. The companies' previous experience was limited to the U.S. The Canada Outbound Trade Mission gave them an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Canadian buyers interested in their products.
"This was unique because we helped six new companies engage in international marketing," Charlet said. Without information and encouragement she believes they would have missed this chance to take part in the trade mission. Local companies face many barriers to international trade, but with the help of Charlet and her team they are matched with appropriate buyers.
The Canadian buyers represented grocery and specialty stores. So, the ODAFF market development experts chose companies offering specialty products like banana pudding, dried mixes for dips and soups, authentic Indian food in a box, alternative ketchup and sauces.
Some product was successfully sold during the trade mission and there will be continued contact and follow-up according to Charlet. She acknowledges that international marketing is not a perfect fit for every company, but encourages Oklahoma entrepreneurs to try it.
"Keep an open mind and explore it," Charlet suggests. "It can be a nice addition to a company's domestic market and fill gaps in production."
Charlet's efforts were honored at a recent SUSTA meeting to plan trade activities for 15 southern states and Puerto Rico. She received an award for recruiting the Most New Companies - Overseas. To learn more about international marketing visit the ODAFF website at www.oda.state.ok.us/mktdev/international.htm.