Hagler promotes Missouri's black walnuts during Russian trade mission
Missouri's black walnut industry was touted to confectioners in Russia during a visit in early December by Jon Hagler, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Hagler, who was part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture delegation to Russia, was the keynote speaker at the University of Missouri Crop Management Conference, Dec. 18, 2012, in Columbia.
Hagler spoke of Missouri's strong positioning to be a major exporter of agribusiness products and said Russian officials showed interest in Missouri's walnuts and native pecans. Russia imports tree nuts, almonds, pistachios and English walnuts.
"Russia is excited about the opportunity to do business with America," he said. "I'm excited about what the possibilities could be down the road."
Russia's growing middle class wants and can afford more protein and higher-quality food, Hagler said. This opens the doors for Missouri agribusinesses that want to export both traditional agricultural products as well as nontraditional ones such as wine and nuts.
Missouri is the world's largest producer of black walnuts. Native to Missouri, walnut trees grow in every county in the state, said Mark Coggeshall, research assistant professor of forestry at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
Walnuts are valuable not just for their edible nutmeats. The walnut's shell is used for industrial applications such as cleaning and polishing titanium aircraft wings or naval ship hulls. Walnut lumber, prized for its fine grain, is the highest-priced hardwood in the U.S., Coggeshall said.
Coggeshall's research centers on developing a walnut tree that produces a thin-shelled walnut with a larger edible nutmeat.
Two-way agricultural trade between the U.S. and Russia was valued at approximately $1.5 billion in 2012, with American farm exports accounting for 97 percent of that total.