Jan 19, 2021
Growers, businesses invited to participate in OTA international events
Organic Trade Association

Whether it’s on a zoom screen in Wisconsin or in an exhibit booth in Dubai, the Organic Trade Association will be showcasing American-produced organic products in 2021 to a wide and diverse international audience.

From a never-before-done virtual edition of the world’s biggest organic trade fair in Germany to trade missions stretching across Europe and Asia, the trade association has planned a busy year of creative activities to help give the pandemic-recovering world access to high-quality, healthy American organic products.

Exports amd imports are an integral component of the U.S. organic market, from family farms to large-scale operations. Our nation’s organic farmers can benefit from global trade. Exports support organic family farms by providing them with more choices and opportunities in how and where they market their products. Connecting organic producers and businesses with developing and often untapped organic markets and educating consumers everywhere about the benefits of organic help keep organic profitable and sustainable. Alternately the bulk of the organic products the United States imports are products that American farmers do not produce in significant quantities, such as bananas, coffee, and olive oil, as well as organic corn and soybeans to meet the nation’s growing demand for organic livestock feed and organic grain. Imports are also used to meet counter-seasonal demand for organic produce. While U.S. organic farmers may never supply the nation’s appetite for organic coffee, the U.S. can and should produce more organic grain domestically. Whether an import or export market, global trade needs to be both open and fair. In organic, this relies on strong enforcement of organic claims on products, no matter where they are produced.

“2020 turned international programming on its head, but that doesn’t mean our programming stopped. We pivoted to a virtual environment, and through targeted buyer outreach and online meetings, the Organic Trade Association provided companies the opportunity to generate new business overseas without leaving their homes,” said Alexis Carey, Manager of International Trade for the Organic Trade Association. “We look forward to more of these successful virtual events in 2021, and we’re all excited for the opportunity to resume in-person events later this year.”

“The world changed fast last year with the coronavirus. It tested all of us, and it had a special impact on our international development team for which the personal contact is so critical. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, however, our resilient team created opportunities that generated millions of dollars in new sales and new markets for our participating businesses, and we’ll continue to build markets for organic this year, no matter the challenges,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.

Online and in-person in 2021

While much uncertainty remains about the possibility of travel as 2021 begins, the Organic Trade Association will continue with its successful Virtual Trade Missions, and is prepping for international travel as well. Here’s where U.S. organic will be:

  • BIOFACH. It’s the largest trade fair in the world devoted to organic, and the Organic Trade Association has long had a strong presence at the show in Nuremberg, Germany. A virtual edition of the fair, Biofach eSpecial, leads off the new year from February 17-19. An online pavilion for U.S. organic companies will be hosted by the Organic Trade Association. Additionally, the association will participate in seminars during the virtual Biofach Congress. In 2020, the trade association brought 14 companies to BioFach to showcase their products to 47,000 visitors from 136 countries. They exhibited products ranging from almonds and pecans to herbal tea, baby food, maple syrup, oils and grains. The hard work paid off, with projected sales of $8,655,000 as a direct result of their participation in BioFach 2020 — nearly double sales activity from the 2019 trade fair.
  • Gulfood. This is the world’s biggest trade show dedicated to food and beverages, normally drawing over 90,000 visitors from over 90 countries. Held in Dubai, UAE, from February 21-25, the huge event is set to be in person, and the Organic Trade Association will sponsor three companies to exhibit at the show. The association’s involvement comes on the heels of a stunning debut at the show in 2020, in which six organic companies exhibited for the first time under the Organic Trade Association umbrella. The businesses came home with projected sales surpassing $5.7 million. The Gulf region is a promising region for U.S. organic exports; the U.A.E. has been one of the United States’ top ten markets in recent years for organic products, and domestic organic food sales are growing by double digits.
  • Japan and Korea. The Organic Trade Association will be active in Asia this year, despite the challenges created by the pandemic. Following a successful year in 2020, the trade association will be promoting American organic in both retail and digital channels, and will continue work with local-based experts to get the good word out about U.S. organic products. In Tokyo last year, over 45 retail outlets of all sizes and types, ranging from mom-and-pop shops to Costco branches, and department store chains to e-commerce sites, participated in various in-store and digital retail promotional activities for U.S. organic products. The Organic Trade Association went digital in Japan and Korea, using Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to directly reach importers, influencers and consumers.
  • Ingredients Virtual Trade event. Building on the success of two similar ground-breaking virtual trade events in 2020, the Organic Trade Association is hosting a virtual trade mission dedicated to food ingredients on March 23 and 24. Last year, two virtual trade missions for produce with buyers from across Asia, and for processed products companies with buyers from Asia, Europe and the UAE resulted in over 100 one-on-one meetings for U.S. companies with vetted foreign buyers and over $2.1 million in projected sales generated for the 17 participating American suppliers.
  • Healthy, Natural, and Organic Products Virtual Buyers Mission. The Organic Trade Association will partner with Food Export USA to host a virtual buyers’ mission online from April 13-15, featuring meetings with buyers from all over the globe. U.S. companies will create an enhanced online company information page for the invited buyers in advance of meetings, giving them greater visibility on their range of products.
  • Going to Down Under, Virtually. In May, the Organic Trade Association will host a virtual trade event to Australia and New Zealand. From the comfort of their home offices, participants will have one-on-one meetings with importers, attend market briefings, and even participate in a virtual store tour. Both Australia and New Zealand have robust and growing organic markets, with growth easily outpacing that of the conventional food market.
  • Trade missions spanning the globe. When the world becomes safe to venture into again, the Organic Trade Association has trade missions planned for the UK and the EU in the summer, and Taiwan in the fall. With the experts from the Organic Trade Association as their guides, American organic businesses will get the opportunity to visit strong international markets, learn more about organic trends and consumption patterns in potential markets, and make priceless personal contacts to expand their global business network.
  • And more. Also planned for the year is hosting a Produce Buyers Mission in coordination with the can’t-miss Organic Produce Summit in July in Monterey, CA.; attending in the fall the important IFOAM Organic World Congress in France to look at sustainable and resilient food solutions, ecosystem regeneration and health and food sovereignty; and showcasing American organic at the huge Anuga trade show in Germany in October.
    The Organic Trade Association was awarded $816,723 in funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (MAP) for 2021. It has been an official cooperator in USDA’s Market Access Program for more than 20 years – investing in the promotion of American organic agricultural products in global markets and connecting buyers and sellers to create new organic customers around the world.

For USDA MAP programs, all of the products promoted must be USDA certified organic, produced in the USA, and made of 51 percent or more of U.S. based ingredients either by value (cost of the ingredients) or volume (against overall weight of the product). This is the federal USDA regulation for participation and part of the declaration agreed to when signing up for Organic Trade Association activities. All participants must complete the trade association’s online evaluation and a six-month follow-up evaluation.

The membership of the Organic Trade Associations provides the bulk of U.S. organic exports. The market promotion activities administered by the association are open to the entire organic industry, not just association members. For more information or to sign up for activities, visit our website, or contact Alexis Carey at acarey@ota.com.

Above, BIOFACH in Germany is billed as the world’s largest organic trade show event, and a virtual edition of the show will be held in February 2021. Photo: NuernbergMesse/Thomas Geiger

The Organic Trade Association represents over 9,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others.

Be sure to check out our other specialty agriculture brands