Azerbaijan Agricultural Trade Mission to Wenatchee, Washington, Advances Technology and Business Linkages between the U.S. and Azerbaijan
When the global price of oil started to decline in 2014, Azerbaijan’s need to diversify its economy and expand into other sectors, like agriculture, became apparent. The Government of Azerbaijan implemented a reform agenda to address this, but with the sector lacking development and facing administrative barriers, this was no easy task. USAID has since supported this transition to a more resilient economy.
Through projects like the USAID Private Sector Activity (PSA) and its predecessor, the Agricultural Support to Azerbaijan Project (ASAP), USAID works to increase the incomes of Azerbaijani agribusinesses and improve the competitiveness of the local private sector, including agricultural. This work includes facilitating the exchange of knowledge and fostering strong international partnerships between agribusinesses. For this purpose, USAID PSA organized a trade mission to Washington state, in collaboration with the United States — Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, from December 4 to December 8, 2022.
“Trade missions like these are amazing opportunities for farmers and agribusinesses to gather inspiration and take their operations to the next level,” said Samir Hamidov, Senior Private Sector Development Advisor, Office of Governance and Economic Resilience at USAID/Azerbaijan. “With increased linkages, the local economy will grow and access to global markets will increase, allowing international players to purchase Azerbaijan’s unique agricultural products more easily.”
Supporting the Azerbaijan Agricultural Trade Mission to Wenatchee, Washington, PSA representatives welcomed a delegation of 19 Azerbaijani farmers and business leaders in Seattle on December 4. On December 5, the mission participants attended the 2022 North West Horticulture Exhibition in Wenatchee, and then took part in a meet and greet networking reception in the evening.
The 2022 North West Horticulture Exhibition offered members of the horticulture community the chance to share their organizations’ fruit tree innovations, including those related to production, storage, packaging, shipping, finance, and automation. For Azerbaijani farmers and business leaders, this was an incredible learning opportunity as horticulture is a major part of the country’s growing agricultural economy. Berries, hazelnuts, persimmons, pomegranates, and orchard crops are particularly key value chains in Azerbaijan. Moreover, the exposition helped facilitate face-to-face meetings with American producers to explore potential business relationships. This led several American organizations to consider exporting to markets in the Caspian region and attending the 2023 Azerbaijan International Agriculture Exhibition in Baku.
“We discovered a lot of innovations at the exhibition,” said Etibar Aghalar, a member of the delegation and general director of Expert Agro Services. “The Azerbaijani producers who participated in the Trade Mission have found potential customers for their products and held preliminary discussions with them. We have also initiated dialogues with several companies in Washington and we hope that our visit will be of great importance for the development of the agricultural sector in Azerbaijan.”
During the meet and greet networking reception in the evening, Khazar Ibrahim, the ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States, delivered opening remarks to over 70 guests, including representatives from businesses involved with apple production, cold chain and perishable freight logistics, fertilizers, and indoor farming. Members from Washington state’s Department of Commerce and its Department of Agriculture (WSDA) were also in attendance. Through this reception, representatives from Absheron-M and Nemes Trade Mmc., two Azerbaijani companies, were able to connect with representatives from AquaCare, a sustainable aquaculture facility producer from Washington state, and discuss the feasibility of delivering a turnkey salmon and steelhead trout farm to Azerbaijan in 2023.
The delegation also visited local businesses and research institutions to learn primarily about orchard production, post-harvest management, and fruit processing technology. During the tour of CMI Orchards’ production facility, the delegation observed automated apple processing and packaging. At Union Hill Cidery Co., a local cider producer, they learned about juice and cider processing, as well as how it operates as a small business. For their visit to the Wenatchee Fruit Tree Research and Extension Center, affiliated with Washington State University, the delegation received a presentation on the lab’s research and discussed its collaboration with the private sector to improve fruit tree growth and production. This culminated in representatives from the lab and members of the delegation wanting to meet again in early 2023 to explore the development of agricultural extension activities in Azerbaijan related to orchard farming. The delegation also toured a Costco Wholesale facility, an Aplets & Cotlets Candy Kitchen factory, and the Rocky Reach Dam, seven miles upstream from Wenatchee.
With Azerbaijani farmers and business leaders participating in events focused on exchanging knowledge and fostering new partnerships, they are able to bring back innovative practices and international linkages key to elevating Azerbaijan’s agriculture sector. Successful mission trips like the Azerbaijan Agricultural Trade Mission to Wenatchee, Washington, help Azerbaijan move away from its reliance on a single sector and transition to a more resilient and competitive economy.