Capitalizing on Opportunities to Grow Global Exports

By Greg Cohen

Greg CohenIn 2018, the U.S. Census reported the U.S. exported 2.6 billion bushels (over half the domestic crop) of soybeans valued at $28 billion. Despite changing markets and political influence, the demand for U.S. soybeans and soy-based products continues to grow globally, thanks in part to increased purchasing power in emerging markets.

But where do you start when it comes to exporting and connecting to buyers from all over the world? There are many tools and resources to take advantage of, but your most important goal is export readiness to meet buyer expectations.

  • Commit to the long game. Exporting is not a game where you can have one foot in it. When you commit to export, it will require complete commitment. This allows for the long-term organizational buy-in and resources, including any staff and finances that will be necessary to become successful exporters.
  • Address the culture conundrum. Even as technology removes global hurdles to communication, culture barriers still exist. In export marketing, more than U.S.-based sales, relationship building is a necessity for export success. Every country culture is different, and a cookie-cutter approach will not work. You will need to research and understand the cultural nuance of each country where you choose to export. This will include understanding cultural customs, communications, correspondence, business practices and even traditional decision-making processes of that business culture.
  • Look for research opportunities. Finding the right prospects includes market research to identify your markets of opportunity. Tools like the Harmonized System (HS) and the Schedule B, along with market reports from USA Trade Online or the Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), allow you to do detailed searches on export variables related to current volume of sales, duties and fees.
  • Get yourself export ready.  Buyers consistently tell us that many exporters lack the ability to meet their expectations and make it difficult to do business with them. You can prevent this by doing your homework before you connect with buyers. You’ll need to know your HS codes, research the market, be prepared with export pricing and correct terms of sales and be knowledgeable about transportation and freight solutions.
  • Develop a marketing plan and strategy. Once you identify a target market, you will need a plan and strategy and promotional resources. In some cases, cost-share opportunities such as Food Export–Midwest’s Branded Program are available to assist with marketing and promotional costs. Your marketing plan should include information on global food trends, packaging and labeling regulations.
  • Connect with buyers. You’ve picked the market and prepared yourself, now you need to build a relationship with the buyer. Despite cultural differences, people around the world are very similar. Ask yourself, what would I expect in a business relationship? Begin your discussion by asking questions about the buyer’s needs and how your product suits them. Be patient, new market relationships take time to build.

Producers interested in exporting can contact the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) or visit to learn more about markets. Food Export Association of the Midwest USA (Food Export–Midwest) also offers many services to help you learn about exporting and to foster buyer-seller connections. For more information, visit

Greg Cohen is communications manager at Food Export Association of the Midwest USA, a non-profit organization that promotes the export of food and agricultural products from the Midwest region of the United States.