At Guadalajara’s Mercado de Abastos (supply market), the third largest wholesale market in Mexico, countless boxes of Washington apples were stacked neatly in cool, clean stalls.
Many of the boxes containing crisp, plump apples sport labels created by the importers, but also place names familiar to any Washingtonian like Chelan, Wenatchee, Toppenish, and Yakima.
|El Mercado de Abastos, Guadalajara.|
At a national level, Mexico is the third largest market for U.S. agriculture products. For Washington, it is our 7th largest ag export market. Washington exported $313 million worth of food and ag products there last year. Mexico is also a primary market for our dairy products and apples, just one reason WSDA joined the weeklong trade mission in mid May with Gov. Jay Inslee and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle.
Our participation in the trade mission showed how much our state’s ag industry values the important partnerships we have in Mexico. It also let us see first-hand the successes some of our state’s commodity commissions have had in connecting with local businesses as they meet the appetites of local consumers.
Sister state similarities
|Director Sandison meeting with officials of the|
Jalisco Department of Rural Development.
Jalisco state officials expressed great interest in Washington dairy operations and the advanced technology used on many of our dairies. The groups also discussed potential opportunities to exchange ideas that would further strengthen ties between Washington and Jalisco, which has had a Sister-State relationship since 1996.
Robust ag trade
|Director Sandison at Mercado de Abastos,|
The presence of Washington apples, in particular, has grown tremendously since they were first permitted to be sold in Mexico following the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994.
Washington currently ships more apples to Mexico than any other country.
|Scott Kinney, CEO, Dairy Farmers of WA|
inspects cheese at a market in Mexico.
Insights gained from all these meetings provided useful information regarding market demands in Mexico, and both the challenges and opportunities that could come from exporting there.
Our dairy industry partners also toured a milk processing plant in Mexico City that demonstrated an attention to quality control rivalling facilities here in the U.S.
Questions about NAFTA
It was during the trade mission that the White House announced its intent to initiate discussions on updating the 23-year-old agreement. The news prompted several questions from local media and Mexican officials. On the whole, there was broad agreement that NAFTA could use updating.
|Director Sandison, Gov. Jay Inslee and |
Commerce Director Brian Bonlender.
“NAFTA has been good to Washington agriculture, but an update could provide additional benefits,” Sandison said. “Particularly if we stay focused on broad principles around trade.”
The trip would not have been as fruitful if not for the participation of the Washington Apple Commission, the Dairy Farmers of Washington, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council for allowing WSDA to use their representatives in Mexico to coordinate meetings and market tours.
“Washington currently enjoys good relations with America’s neighbor to the south,” Director Sandison said. “This trade mission confirmed for me that our ties are strong and even more opportunities exist to benefit farmers both in Washington and Mexico.”