|By DAVE BLOWER JR.
Farm World Editor
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Andy Miller said his recent trip to Japan and South Korea along with Gov. Mitch Daniels was like the second step in building a barn.
“When you’re building a barn, it’s not very pretty at the stage when you’re putting in the foundation,” Miller said. “However, it’s exciting when you begin to see the walls going up. And that’s what this year’s trip to Japan was like.”
The Daniels Administration returned from Japan and South Korea in late June with major deals signed for an Indiana pork production facility and for the companies involved in the state’s hardwood industry.
“I think the fruits of our work from last year are just beginning to be seen,” Miller explained. “Last year we went to Japan and cast our net very wide. We learned about the things they were interested in. This year, we went back with very specific targets in mind. The successes we had this year were the results from our meetings last year.”
Early in the trip, Indiana Packers Corp. of Delphi, Ind. signed a deal with Japanese companies Mitsubishi and Itoham Corp. that would expand the pork processing capacity of the facility to 16,000 hogs per day - a 37 percent increase in a three-year period. Mitsubishi and Itoham will invest $43 million into the facility, and the expansion should create 125 new jobs, Daniels said.
Miller added that 30-40 percent of the pork processed at the IPC plant would be exported back to Japan.
He said the Daniels Administration went to Japan and Korea to foster new opportunities for Indiana businesses.
“Our goal is not to go in and negotiate export deals for Indiana companies,” Miller said. “Our policy is to bring a focus or a spotlight on these companies, then get out of the way and let them do their work.”
“This isn’t anything new. Other states have been doing this for a long time - and it pays off.”
The Indiana Hardwood Lumberman’s Assoc. also unveiled its new branding logo during the trip in Tokyo at the Gallery Mori no Kotoba, a high-end furniture and household-shopping outlet in Japan. Miller expects similar deals to come in the future based on this year’s venture into South Korea.
“This was our first visit to Korea,” Miller said. “We spent a lot of time listening to people and what they care about. We really immersed ourselves into their market to see what they are interested in. We met with seven companies that either import from the U.S. or are interested in importing.
“I think there are a number of opportunities there. Korea is already a tremendous trading partner; it is the third largest trading partner for the U.S. We’ll see in the next six to 12 months if we’ll come to bear the fruits from this trip.”
Miller said that Indiana’s corn and soybean industries already have well-established relationships with Japanese and Korean companies. So, there wasn’t much additional support the Daniels Administration thought it could add for those Hoosier producers.
“These countries are already huge importers of corn and soybeans - particularly corn,” Miller said. “But these are very mature relationships. They are already running like a well-oiled machine. It’s really the best case study of what could happen with pork and Indiana hardwoods.
“Ag is at the core of our economic comeback. (Japan and Korea) are not food self-sufficient. Japan produces only about 30 percent of the food that they consume, and Korea is at about 50 percent.”