Ancient crops from Bolivia for export to Europe

Fields of green plants with white flowers.

Plants of white sesame seeds in the flowering stage. Photo: Agroexport

With their superfoods packed, Bolivian Agroexport travelled to the European trade fair Anuga, accompanied by Open Trade Gate Sweden. It was a trip that took them outside their comfort zone – and resulted in new, fruitful contacts with European importers.

Agroexport specialises in agricultural products – more specifically, what are known as ancient crops, or superfoods. These are crops grown in traditional ways and are known for their high nutritional content. Production is carried out on a small scale by local farmers, enabling them to improve their standard of living:

“We give resources to the small farmers so that they can plant seeds. Before this programme, they didn’t have an income. They would just cultivate for themselves and eat what they had,” says Laura Loredo, Management Assistant of Agroexport.

They were the first company in Bolivia to start growing sesame seeds, and it turned out to be very successful. Nowadays, chia seeds, quinoa, beans, almonds and pumpkin seeds are also part of the harvest.

One of 12 participants in the Inclusive Market project

Since 2019, Agroexport has been one of 12 superfood companies participating in export promotion activities within the Inclusive Market project, run by Open Trade Gate Sweden together with SwissContact. The programme aims to export Bolivian superfoods to Europe, and in particular the Swedish market. The programme offers e-learning on the European and Swedish markets, marketing support and networking opportunities, including participation in trade fairs.

“The Open Trade Gate Sweden has been very helpful and present, and has arranged meetings with new clients,” says Laura Loredo.

Man and woman in front of a large building.

Mijail Loredo and Laura Loredo at Anuga trade fair. Photo: Agroexport

Help to get a better grasp of European culture

The company attended events such as the Anuga trade fair in Germany, where they had the opportunity to meet a large number of importers. Laura Loredo says their expectations were not that high, having attended other trade fairs in the past:

“Usually, we go to trade fairs and just wait for people to come. You feel like you lose your money because you don’t get what you want from the fair.”

But with the support of Open Trade Gate Sweden, this experience was different. In particular, she points to the project consultant Michel as a great support in helping them have the confidence to approach the visitors at the fair:

“He told us to keep insisting, to keep going, to keep asking. That helped us a lot because we didn’t understand the European culture and that they needed a bit more pushing. Michel helped us to get to European people.”

Results beyond expectations

The outcome of the fair was a long list of email addresses and ultimately 30 booked meetings.

“I didn't think it would work because it would take a while for people to respond, but in the end, it was worth it. The more people you talk to, the more opportunities you have.”

And this is an approach that the company will take with it going forward:

“Now that we know that we can work this way, we can communicate and express ourselves more,” says Laura Loredo.

The contacts resulted in several deals on the European market. As for Sweden, it is an exciting but also challenging market, Laura Loredo states:

“Sweden is a difficult market; there are so many certifications. It is a little more work, but we are willing to do it. The consumers want low prices and good quality – which is difficult to acquire. Difficult, but not impossible!”

“OTGS really wants to help”

A new trade fair in Seattle is on the agenda in the near future. After that, the cooperation with Open Trade Gate Sweden is drawing to a close. But Laura Loredo is pleased:

“We feel very satisfied with what we did. If we don’t have their support anymore it’s fine, we know that many others need it.”
And to those who work with Open Trade Gate Sweden in the future, she has one clear piece of advice:

“Listen to them! They really want to help you. Maybe they will take you out of your comfort zone, but it’s for the better!”