It’s not often a commodity processor from a small southwestern Manitoba community gets to participate in an international trade forum.
But Nestibo Agra does.
This sunflower processor from Deloraine took part last week in Centrallia, an international business event matching sellers with potential buyers from around the world.
At Centrallia, Mike Durand, Nestibo Agra’s sales and purchasing manager, was busy doing what the show was des igned for : connect ing directly with potential clients.
“If I’m not at these events, I’m not doing my job,” Durand said during a hasty interview before dashing off to meet his next client, a trade official from Belgium.
Centrallia, held in Winnipeg Oct. 20-22, was billed as a platform for small and medium-size Manitoba businesses to meet prospective partners from other countries.
The unique format consisted of 30-minute pre-arranged face-to- face meetings between businesses and potential customers. No booths, no fancy displays, no tire kicking. Just fast-paced business-to-business (B2B) encounters between people with mutual interests to, hopefully, make deals. “Speed dating” is how organizers described it.
Sponsored by ANIM, a bilingual agency promoting Manitoba trade, Centrallia is based on Futurallia, an international matchmaking business forum. The Winnipeg event was the first of its kind in Canada held outside Quebec. It drew 500 delegates from 35 countries to the second floor of the Winnipeg Convention Centre to negotiate in three languages: English, French and Spanish.
Durand said he had mixed feelings about the format at first, after paying $850 to take part only to find out he had to arrange his own contacts via Internet.
He was a little disappointed when an initial database search found only six companies interested in agriculture. But by broadening his search, he found more.
When it came time for the event, most of Durand’s 30-minute meeting slots were full.
He said his first meeting with a representative from Turkey went well. Turkey is a jumping-off point for the Middle East and a good place to develop customers throughout the region.
“One client can be worth all the expense,” Durand said.
He said the Middle East is a good market for Nestibo Agra’s main product: in-shell sunflower seeds.
An HACCP-certified company, Nestibo Agra, founded in 1996, also sells sunflower kernels for the confectionery and bakery markets. Other products include flax, buckwheat, hemp seed, millet, rye, triticale and bird food.
Durand said it’s not surprising his company is a big-league global competitor, despite its size and location. Communicating through the Internet removes international borders and places customers practically next door, he said.
Because of that, Durand sometimes gets to be a go-to person for some very specific requests. He once got a call from the Middle East asking for some North Dakota-type sunflower seeds. Being 12 miles away from the U. S. border, he was able to fill the request quickly.
Durand recognizes he’s in a highly competitive business against other commodities such as canola and soybeans grown, not just in Canada, but in China and Argentina.
For that reason, customer satisfaction with a high-quality product is critical, he said.
And when he’s successful, it’s the farmer who ultimately benefits. “I’m doing my best to pump up the price.” [email protected]
– MI KE DURAND, NESTIBO AGRA