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Exporting Yourself

Mon, 11/09/2009 - 4:42am
Karen Langhauser, Editor-in-chief

A few years ago, I came down the stairs Christmas morning at my parent’s house to find a 28” X 20” wrapped gift waiting for me under the tree. I excitedly asked “what is it?!” (as if I wasn’t just about to open it and find out). My mom quickly informed me it was “boring.” To this day, I disagree.

Ok, so maybe a suitcase isn’t every 20-something year old’s dream gift, but it’s an item that is absolutely necessary. In my opinion, there is a limited amount of adventure a person can have that doesn’t involve an overnight stay. If you really want to experience new things and gather new ideas, you have to seek out new markets in which to do so. In a sense, you need to export yourself.

My suitcase has a lot of miles on it. It has been to Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Cuba and pretty much every island vacation spot you think of, including every single destination named in the Beach Boys 1988 hit, Kokomo (an accomplishment I am particularly proud of, for some reason). By time you read this, my suitcase (along with myself, hopefully) will be in Thailand.

The Thailand Board of Investment has given me the unbelievable opportunity to explore Thailand’s food industry, on location. Throughout the week, I will be speaking with food industry experts and executives, as well as touring state-of-the-art food manufacturing facilities owned by major U.S. food companies.

Thailand’s food industry definitely understands the benefits of seeking markets beyond its own shores. According to the Thailand Board of Investment, food industry exports bring in $10 billion annually. Thailand is the world’s largest producer and exporter of canned pineapple, pineapple juice, canned and frozen seafood, processed chicken, rice and frozen and processed shrimp.

The interesting part is that Thailand’s food industry is still very much in its infancy, and really didn’t take off until the government starting offering incentives in the 1970’s. The industry evolved fast, and is still growing at a yearly rate of 13 percent.

Because the industry is so export-driven, food safety—perhaps more importantly, proving that food is safe—is crucial. Government and industry groups follow strict food safety standards, which I will be learning about firsthand. The country has a number of food safety certifying agencies in order to help the industry adhere to numerous international standards.

So be on the lookout in the near future for an up-close look at Thailand’s food industry (and perhaps an unavoidable detour to the Tiger Farm). After seven years of writing about the U.S. food industry, I plan to bring home some different perspectives, new ideas, and whatever else I can fit in a 28” X 20” suitcase.

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