May 6, 2012 in Idaho

Trade trip yields China dairy deal

 

Big buyer

In 2011, China ranked fifth among Idaho’s largest importers.

BOISE – Gov. Butch Otter’s skills as a pitchman paid off for a North Idaho biotech company that has landed a deal to sell pregnancy tests to China’s third-largest dairy.

Moscow-based BioTracking signed a sales agreement April 16 with Shanghai Bright Dairy Co. during Otter’s second trade trip to China in a little more than two years.

“I’d love to hire him,” Garth Sasser, a founder of BioTracking, told the Idaho Statesman.

Otter made the original pitch on behalf of BioTracking during his 2010 trade mission that included a meeting with Shanghai Bright officials. BioTracking came along but didn’t have time to prepare a presentation on its cow pregnancy test, so Otter picked up the pitchman duties.

Otter explained how the biotech company’s tests predict with 99 percent accuracy when a cow is pregnant by measuring the presence of a protein. Knowing when a cow is pregnant can increase milk productivity.

Intrigued Shanghai Bright officials invited Sasser to its meeting of dairy producers later that year. Sasser and his wife, Nancy, then hosted Shanghai Bright officials in Moscow, Idaho, and showed them the company’s labs, arranged fishing trips, a Hells Canyon tour and a barbecue.

Otter and other state officials and Idaho companies made another trade trip to China from April 14-21, which included BioTracking inking its deal with Shanghai Bright. Otter took part in the signing as well. Nancy Sasser said Otter’s presence was critical because Chinese culture puts great value in influential government officials taking part in business deals. She said many Shanghai Bright officials wanted to be photographed with Otter, and he was happy to take part.

“It’s important to foster personal relationships,” Nancy Sasser said.

Otter’s commerce secretary, Jeff Sayer, said other Idaho companies picked up orders on the most recent trip as well, and some made contacts while looking for potential opportunities.

In 2011, China ranked fifth among the state’s importers by buying $398 million in goods.

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