USSEC Strengthens Relationship Between U.S. Farmers and SEA Buyers Through ISA Visit to Southeast Asia
- General News
USSEC hosted a four-member team comprised of Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) directors C.W. Gaffner and Doug Schroeder, CEO Craig Ratajczyk and CFO Brian Hansen who visited Bangkok, Thailand from January 11-17. The Illinois delegates were joined by USSEC Regional Director – Southeast Asia (SEA) Timothy Loh, USSEC Program Management Consultant – SEA Soong Kim Lian and USSEC Country Representative – Thailand Opas Supamornpun. The delegation met with Agriculture Attaché, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Embassy, Bangkok Rey Santella, CP Food Group, local traders and the Thai Feedmill Association and discussed the present and future of Thailand’s agriculture sector, quality issues, and sustainability. Another highlight of the trip was witnessing the discharge of U.S. soybean and soybean meal vessels at the offshore anchorage discharge facility at Koh Si Chang while getting an update on
Thailand’s import potential of U.S. Soy products with Bunge Thailand. The team met key executives and toured the facilities at Thai Vegetable Oil’s crushing plant, Bangkok Ranch’s duck processing plant, and Betagro’s feedmill and pork processing facility. The delegation also had a taste of the country’s well known culture of hospitality when they were invited to sample Bangkok Ranch’s duck products and Betagro’s chicken and pork products – all reported to be fed with U.S. Soy!
Another five-member team including ISA directors Gary Berg, Stan Born, and Tim Scates, along with ISA Director of Strategic Research Programs Linda Kull and ISA Director of Issues Management & Analysis Mike Levin arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 12 and were joined by USSEC’s Ali Basry, Country Representative – Indonesia; Gail Tan, USSEC Program Executive – SEA; Handiman, USSEC Program Executive - Indonesia; and Dady Maskar, USSEC Technical Consultant - Human Utilization, Indonesia. They were invited to the residence of Ali Abdi (Ag Counselor, FAS-USDA, U.S. Embassy, Jakarta) and interacted with customers of U.S. Soy, such as PT. FKS Multiagro and PT. Charoen Pokphand.
Over the next two days, the team visited the warehouse of PT. Jakarta Sereal (a U.S. soybean importer) in Cikarang, discussed their logistics operations and exchanged ideas on how the customer quantifies quality in their soybean shipments. In another meeting with FKS Multiagro, the largest importer of whole U.S. soybeans, the team learned how the company assesses soybean quality, brands their U.S. No.1 Soybean, and the usage of soybeans for tempe and tofu. The visit to KOPTI, a tempe producing co-operative in South Jakarta and a tour of their tofu and tempe facilities, also brought up the viability of bringing these local produce to other markets. According to Mr. Berg, “Overall, they were very happy with U.S. soybeans. The USA has a consistent production for meal, and they prefer U.S. soybeans for food.”
Both teams then converged in Manila, Philippines – the third biggest market for U.S. soybean meal globally – and commenced their intensive two-day program on January 18 with Ms. Soong; Ms. Tan; Dr. Basilisa Reas, USSEC Technical Consultant, Animal Utilization - Philippines); and Ted Cortes, Country Representative - Philippines. The group visited RDF Feed Livestock & Foods Inc, a fully integrated company (from feed production to animal raising to meat retail) and was introduced to company operations. After a lunch briefing by Pilmico Animal Nutrition (commercial feed and swine producer) and a tour of their feedmill facility, the team visited Great Harvest, a local trading company who buys U.S. soybean meal and gained insights from a customer’s perspective. At the FAS-USDA briefing room in the U.S. Embassy, Manila, Ag Counselor Ralph Bean made a country briefing before the delegation embarked on a Docent Tour in the Embassy and gained a better appreciation of the culture and history that has shaped Philippine’s consumption and economy. The meeting with key personnel from San Miguel Purefoods (a subsidiary of the largest food company in the Philippines) saw an active discussion on the company’s activities, quality attributes buyers look for in soybean meal and an exchange of contact information for future communication. The team also attended a networking cocktail reception held in honor of the ISA at the residence of Michael Klecheski (Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Manila) attended by selected industry stakeholders. A short meeting with Bunge Philippines brought good news that a vessel of U.S. soybean meal had just been traded at the Import Group tender the same evening.
The team departed for Hong Kong on January 20 marking the close of their Southeast Asia trip. Mr. Berg concluded, “The Southeast Asia area has a very large and growing population and we wanted to promote Illinois and U.S. soybeans. It is much better to talk face to face. We are trying to build on current relationships and hopefully add new customers by listening to key concerns they might have.”
Mr. Gaffner said, “We went on this trip because [Southeast Asia] is the #1 growth area in the world. We need to make sure we are doing all we can to retain current users of our beans and see what we can do to grow our customers.”