The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) will participate in several international trade missions later this year.

As a member of the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA), West Virginia agricultural producers will have an opportunity to showcase and sell in the Canadian, Chinese and Australian markets.

The missions are part of a multi-year initiative of SUSTA, a trade-based group with the goal of helping companies enter and successfully compete in the lucrative Chinese market. In 2009, the organization led more than 85 trade events in 35 markets throughout the world.

Plans are being made to feature a southern U.S. states pavilion at SIAL (Le Salon International De L’Alimentation) Canada in April, China in May, as well as a return to the Fine Food Australia event in September. Domestically, the WVDA will play leadership roles in the John Folse Culinary School Chef training and international trade training for new companies attending the New York Fancy Food Show in June.

Canada’s event will take place in Montreal, Quebec. SUSTA’s pavilion will once again feature West Virginia chef Joe Re providing product demonstrations during the event. The event kicks off a large 2010 agenda for the market spearheaded by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture as a country-wide initiative.

Agricultural exports to China show promise for tremendous growth. The SIAL event in Shanghai will feature more than 50 U.S. companies — 10 from the SUSTA region. Plans are under way to include West Virginia companies, to identify distribution channels and to promote exports.

With a 100 percent increase in sales and contacts in 2009 for SUSTA companies, the 2010 Fine Food Australia Show will be held in Sydney. Pavilion plans include West Virginia products and a culinary theater with West Virginia chef, Dale Hawkins.

Longtime West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass helped form SUSTA in 1973. The organization is comprised of departments of agriculture from 15 southern states and Puerto Rico. It is funded by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS), member states and private companies. For more information, contact Marketing Specialist Cindy Martel at 304-469-9738 or 304-541-9756.

For more information, visit http://www.wvagriculture.org.