African farmer delegation touring US Midwest
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A dozen farmers and business owners from Africa are visiting farm equipment factories in the Midwest to study technology that might help them produce more soybeans and corn back home — while manufacturers in the U.S. are hoping the visit could lead to new opportunities in a market that is expected to grow in coming years.
The delegation was touring factories in Fargo, N.D., on Friday. Next week, the group plans to visit equipment manufacturers in Jackson, Minn.; Ames, Iowa; and Omaha, Neb., Minnesota Public Radio reported (http://bit.ly/19OzVM0).
Ugandan farmer Patrick Bitature said he sees the American Midwest as a model for the future of farming in his country, especially now that he has seen effects of climate change, such as persistent drought.
"We have been in a slumber for way too long, and with global warming now the reality has begun to hit hard," he said. "We have to change what we're doing if we are going to get different results."
The African farmers are in the United States on a trade mission organized by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Agency consultant Ken Peoples said that over the next few decades most of the world's new food production will occur in Africa, which has the most undeveloped farmland of any continent.
"During the next 25 to 30 years, that will be the place where new acres are providing food for this growing world population," he said. "So I think in terms of early pioneering markets, this is the largest one on the earth.
"I keep telling every U.S. company it will take two or three years before they end up making a purchase, but if they nurture that connection they will have a customer for life," he said.
European, Chinese and South American companies also are competing for African markets, but the African farmers said they believe U.S. technology is superior.
"From what I've seen in the USA, I say, 'Wow.' I wish I could open my eyes and it is there in Africa," said Yaw Adu Poku, who processes soybeans and corn for about 3,000 small farmers in Ghana.
Challenges include the logistics of shipping large equipment, government regulations and the fact that African banks will lend money for equipment only if American banks guarantee the loans.
Stacy Anthony, who manages export sales for Brandt Holdings, a Fargo company that runs 25 John Deere equipment dealerships in five Midwestern states, sees a lot of opportunity to ship used equipment to Africa. Brandt Holdings already exports used equipment to 18 countries.
"I would say it's very probable that we could see sales continue to grow to Africa over the next two or three years by 15 to 20 percent," Anthony said. "The demand and the need is there and definitely the supply is here on this side. So all of the workings are in place to make that happen."