As the Georgia Department of Agriculture participates in trade missions and food shows around the world in the next few months, it is losing two of its five international trade staff members, including its China specialist. 

In August, the department will take Georgia food company representatives to Brazil, Chile, China and India. In September, there are trips to Russia and Vietnam, followed by Turkey, France and Egypt in October and Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates in November.

The trips are subsidized with federal funds through the Southern United States Trade Association, a nonprofit group in New Orleans, which administers programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture that are designed to boost exports. With the subsidy, a company sending a representative on the India trip, for example, would only pay a $350 participation fee which would include round trip airfare and shipment of product samples.

But as the federal government puts funds into these trips, the state of Georgia’s budget shortfalls will lead to a reduction in the size of the Agriculture Department’s international trade department. Two international trade specialists, Maggie Adamack and Matt Anderson, are leaving in a few weeks to further their education. The positions will not be filled immediately as the state continues to grapple with budget shortfalls. Mr. Anderson is the department’s China specialist.

Remaining in the international trade department will be Director David Bryant, Assistant Director Beth Miller-Bedingfield and Corry de Wit, managing director of the department’s European office in Brussels.

“I will not get any money to get a replacement for Maggie or Matt,” Mr. Bryant told GlobalAtlanta.

A smaller staff will likely mean that the department will have fewer trips abroad for food companies, said Mr. Bryant. And the trips have consistently produced tangible results. 

The department swept an international marketing competition last year, winning all four awards for efforts to increase sales of Georgia products abroad.

The awards were announced at the March 2009 meeting in New Orleans of the Southern United States Trade Association, which represents the agriculture departments of 15 southern U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

Ms. de Wit won two awards, for most sales generated and most performance goals met.

The awards were based in part on her efforts at the 2008 Gulfood trade show in Dubai.

Georgia companies participated in a Southern trade association booth at the show, selling products ranging from candy to chicken, said Ms. de Wit. “Companies reported more than $7 million in on-site sales,” she said shortly after winning the award.

Ms. de Wit helped convince the Southern trade association to start attending the Dubai show about five years ago, believing it would tap into lucrative Middle Eastern markets. “That trade show is very dear to me,” she said at the time.

Ms. Adamack won the award for most companies recruited. The department in 2008 hosted representatives from five Central American food distributors on a trip to Georgia and then to the Fancy Food show in New York.

In Georgia, the distributors from Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador met with pecan growers, companies that sell cookies, syrup, wine and other products, said Ms. Adamack. They also toured grocery stores in Atlanta.

Companies that met with the Central American representatives estimated that the meetings would generate nearly $1 million in sales over the next year, Ms. Adamack said. “We call ourselves matchmakers,” she added.

Beth Miller-Bedingfield, assistant director of the international trade office, was named activity manager of the year. She has worked to promote trade in markets such as Brazil, Chile and Panama, said Bernadette Wiltz, deputy director of the Southern trade association.  

It was the first time Georgia has won all four Southern trade association marketing awards.

For more information on the Georgia Agriculture Department’s international marketing efforts, click  here .