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Market Access Program eases tribal export contacts, sales

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BILLINGS, Mont. - Significant contacts as well as orders were the result of participation by the Intertribal Agriculture Council in FOODEX in Tokyo, the largest food show in Asia, last month.

This was the third year the non-profit organization promoted American Indian use of American Indian resources through a Foreign Agriculture Service's Market Access Program. Tribal enterprises as well as private producers who are export ready have opportunities to establish contacts throughout the world to export the Native-made and produced products.

"FOODEX has been a success in the past, but this year was especially profitable for the participants we took with us," program manager Matt Pollock said. "This year we brought salmon and razor clams from the Quinault Tribe (and) pickled asparagus from the Yakama Indian Nation, also in Washington, Dennis Banks Ltd., who is a member of the Leech Lake Tribe who brought maple syrup, candy cakes, maple sugar, blueberry syrup and wild rice and NAPI (Navajo Agriculture Products Inc.) who brought pinto beans and updated contacts for alfalfa pellets. Each participant walked away from the trade show with significant contacts as well as orders."

Each participant must attend an "Export Readiness Seminar" to be trained and challenged to ensure they are export-ready companies, Pollock explained. Each participant also must use the "Made By American Indians" registered trademark established by the council in 1995 to ensure that Indigenous peoples get credit for their products. It also offers protection from fraudulent "Indian" products marketed today.

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The program pays for all trade-show expenses for one representative to attend the show and represent and sell their product.

"The momentum continues to grow for Native American food in Japan," said Pat Booth, president of Productive Trade Resources, who is under contract to the council to assist with international marketing and product promotion.

"We introduced five new food products and had an overwhelming response." Booth added that more than 1,000 people each day visited the exhibition and "we were invited to do a grocery store promotion later in the year and a post-show reception in downtown Tokyo generated export sales in excess of $200,000."

Pollock said the council looks forward to expanding the base established with FOODEX, "not only in Japan, but China and Europe as well. We will be going to Hong Kong in May, Paris in June, and wrapping up with the largest food show in the world in Cologne, Germany, in October."

Tribal enterprises or individual entrepreneurs interested in participating in the program may contact Matt Pollock, program manager, at jadams@IndianCountry.com or call (406) 259-3525.