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Tracy Frank, Published January 06 2014

North Dakota Trade Office, Garrison business headed to west African nation

FARGO - JM Grain, a grain buyer in Garrison, N.D., exports to 12 to 15 countries. The company, which purchases and sells chickpeas, lentils, feed peas, green peas, yellow peas and seed, hopes to soon add one more to the list.

The family-owned business will be among several North Dakota companies bound for Ghana, Africa, later this month.

The North Dakota Trade Office is leading a multi-sector trade mission Jan. 16-23 to Accra, Ghana, to introduce North Dakota products to potential Ghanaian food producers.

“Africa is the new frontier for investment, and we hope to be a part of the groundbreaking force that’s able to open up some of these places in Africa to United States businesses,” said Beverly Flaten, who handles public relations and communications for JM Grain. Her husband, Marvin Flaten, and son, Justin Flaten, own the company.

During the trade mission, North Dakota educators and food specialists will talk about the nutritional benefits of products from the state. They will also demonstrate how those products might be incorporated into the Ghanaian diet.

Beverly Flaten says pulse crops (grain legumes), like the ones JM Grain buys and sells, are a great protein source and they don’t take a lot of energy to cook.

“This trip would not only be to find the market for the pulse crops, it would also be to create the market,” she said.

Though they’re seasoned exporters, this will be a new experience for JM Grain because the company typically goes into well-established markets that have a big demand for pulse crops, Flaten said.

JM Grain recently contributed 3,900 pounds of peas to the North Dakota-Ghana Food Initiative, an effort by the North Dakota Trade Office, Praxis Strategy Group and AdFarm to collect state products that will be distributed in several rural villages in Ghana’s Central Region to help feed Ghanaian families.

Flaten says the support from the state’s Trade Office and Department of Agriculture is invaluable because small companies like theirs cannot afford the marketing or research investment needed to break into new markets on their own.

“Africa is the emerging market for the next decade that’s expected to take the place of China and India as far as United States investment,” Flaten said.

Dean Gorder, North Dakota Trade Office executive director, says the Ghanaian economy has been growing rapidly since 2010, resulting in a growing middle class, a change in the business and ag environments, and growing opportunities for North Dakota’s exporters.

“NDTO has had our eye on Ghana for the past few years, has visited Ghana three different times to gather research, and has been aware of the growing opportunities in the market for our North Dakota exporters,” he said.

The trade delegation will include manufactures of ag equipment, grain storage and handing, and agricultural technology such as GPS systems as well as pulse crops producers.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring will lead the delegation, which will include representation from North Dakota State University. They will join with another delegation led by North Dakota companies AdFarm and Praxis Strategy Group, Gorder said.

“This relationship could be quite significant for North Dakota, as it encompasses many of our food and commercial industries,” Gorder said. “The country is working diligently to improve its agricultural practices in order to feed its people. At the same time, North Dakota can provide healthy food products that are not grown in the West African climate. The country is changing quickly, and we want North Dakota to be on the front of their radar when they need agricultural products.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526