The expansion begins with a new business development director and key account manager for the Middle East/North Africa market.
As part of an ambitious initiative to increase exports, the U.S. dairy industry is hiring nine on-the-ground professionals to expand business opportunities in key global export markets, beginning with the Middle East and North Africa.
“These hires illustrate an increased commitment to serve customers beyond our borders,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. “Trust is a key to our long-term strategy. It requires putting more people on the ground for the face-to-face conversations that build lasting business partnerships.”
The relationship-building will facilitate sales for USDEC’s member companies that export dairy products and ingredients around the world.
Part of The Next 5%
Today, the equivalent of one out of seven tankers of milk leaving American farms ends up in products and ingredients sold overseas. Vilsack is leading an initiative called “The Next 5%” that aims to change that to one out of five tankers of milk. If successful, the effort will create more global demand for U.S. dairy farmers’ abundant, year-round supply.
It is a non-profit, independent membership organization that boosts the global trade interests of U.S. dairy farmers, proprietary processors, cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. USDEC’s 10 international offices have long been the organization’s eyes and ears in foreign markets, identifying opportunities for the entire U.S. dairy industry, charting the business climate and monitoring regulatory activity.
USDEC plans to add three positions in China, two in Southeast Asia, one in Japan, one in South Korea, and two in the Middle East/North Africa.
MENA: Expansive and growing fast
The first two hires are a business development director and a key account manager for the Middle East/North Africa, often referred to as MENA. This fast-growing market spans nearly 4,000 miles from the coast of Morocco to the eastern side of Oman.
Business Development Director Karim Chachati and Key Account Manager Firas Zahreddine have 20 years of combined experience in dairy and food sales, marketing, promotion and merchandising in the region.
Vilsack, a former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and governor from Iowa, interviewed Chachati, Zahreddine and Middle East office leader Nina Bakht Halal at the Gulfood trade show in Dubai in late February. A video clip of that interview is below.
Broad industry support
The initiative has been launched with increased funding from state and regional dairy checkoff organizations and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI).
USDEC remains committed to defending and growing U.S. share in critical dairy export markets like Mexico, the industry’s No. 1 export market, worth $1.3 billion in 2017. Overall, exports were up 14 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year.
But for the United States to reach The Next 5%, MENA must get more attention.
Dairy demand growth in the region is strong. USDEC projects MENA dairy ingredient and cheese imports will rise by more than 160,000 tons and 85,000 tons, respectively, from 2016-2021.
Highly competitive market
William Lynskey, director of sales at Miami-based Tropical Foods, sees the opportunity. That’s why he attended the Gulfood show.
“If you’re looking for the easy road to success in dairy exports, you’re not going to find it,” said Lynskey. “If you want easy, stick to jelly beans.”
Given the region’s size and growing dairy appetite, Lynskey says the Middle East and North Africa “simply cannot be ignored.”
USDEC agrees and is backing up talk with expanding on-the-ground resources.
Mark O’Keefe is vice president of editorial services at USDEC.