Russian chocolate companies eye Missouri black walnuts

Missouri’s director of agriculture is enthused about the potential of exporting Missouri farm products to Russia. Dr. Jon Hagler, on a trade mission with the USDA, told Missouri reporters Wednesday about two Russian chocolate companies that are considering adding a Missouri product to their ingredient list.

“Both of those companies were extraordinarily interested in the black walnut as a potential in their chocolate,” said Hagler, speaking from St. Petersburg, Russia. “They had a high level of interest in not only our native pecan, but particularly our walnuts and our black walnuts, so there’s one opportunity I see right off the bat.”

In addition, Hagler says Russia can benefit from Missouri animal genetics, as well as moderately priced Missouri wines.

“Whether it’d be in the beef sector or swine or whether it would be in wine or nuts, or you can go right on down the line,” said Hagler, “those products, American companies, in particular Missouri has a lot to offer in the way of those products that we want to make sure that we have every opportunity to get those right here [in Russia] on consumer shelves.”

The trip will have been a success if doubters are convinced that doing business with Russia is not as daunting as some think it is, Hagler told Brownfield during the call.

“Having a delegation of government leaders and business leaders like this gives you an opportunity to put eyes in, make the right kind of contacts, make direct contacts,” he said, “contacts that are interested in the products so they can help facilitate and negotiate that difficult transition that sometimes occurs when you move from just dealing with domestic sales versus international sales.”

Hagler is part of a larger delegation of state directors of agriculture and businessmen traveling with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse, who is leading the mission.

AUDIO: Jon Hagler (24 min. MP3)

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