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Looking for dry bean markets in Eastern Europe
June 25, 2003

In March 2003, Johanna Stobbs of the National Dry Bean Council, traveled to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to review the potential of these markets for U.S. dry beans.

In Poland, one-on-one visits with Polish companies were carried out with Wayne P. Molstad, Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs, and Wlodek Makowski, the FAS Agricultural Specialist.

In Hungary, a seminar was conducted with Hungarian import-export companies, canners and dry packagers, in the FAS offices in Budapest, with the help of Paul Spencer, U.S. Agricultural Attache, and Ferenc Nemes, the FAS Agricultural Specialist.

In the Czech Republic, Stobbs conducted a formal seminar on U.S. dry beans in the presence of Czech import-export companies and dry packagers, organized by Petra Choteborska, the FAS Agricultural Specialist. In total, 16 companies were contacted during the trade mission over the three countries.

Czech Republic
After careful consideration regarding the levels of local dry bean production, consumption, and distribution networks, only the Czech Republic would appear to offer US dry bean exporters a serious commercial opportunity in Eastern Europe at this time. The Czech Republic combines a number of positive factors for U.S. dry bean exporters: zero import tariffs on dry beans, a well-developed infrastructure of distribution networks and supermarket outlets, and a strong middle class with disposable income and a growing taste for better, more quality-oriented food products.
This is a market that consumes principally three classes of dry beans: navy beans, large lima beans and pinto beans, with a growing interest in dark red kidney beans for the restaurant trade.
However, the Czech Republic also presents challenges. Cheap imports from China, Burma and Ethiopia are already in the retail sector and price pressures from the large supermarket chains mean low profit margins for importers, dry packagers and canners.

The case for Hungary is very different. Hungary may someday grow into a fertile market for U.S. dry bean exporters. However, at present, U.S. product is hampered by a crippling 40% import tariff. German and Dutch traders supply the Hungarian market with dry legumes.

The situation in Poland represents still another picture for U.S. exporters. Poland is protected from dry bean imports by a 25% tariff. The country is clearly a dry bean producing nation, bent on developing its own local production with a "buy-Polish-first" policy. Dutch and German traders are also key players in sourcing product for Poland during years in which there is a short crop in domestic production.

- Source: National Dry Bean Council


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