WATERTOWN — A delegation of six Egyptian officials visited Aberdeen, Watertown and other eastern South Dakota cities recently in hopes of establishing an agricultural trade relationship, as well as a technology transfer and academic research partnership.
South Dakota Rep. Michael Saba, D-Hartford, said he took the initiative to organize the visit in response to boycotting and tariffs with other U.S. trade partners, specifically China.
“I found that our state wasn’t doing much, and I just took it upon myself to take a trip over there and organize these trade delegations and make things happen,” Saba said. “And things are happening.”
The delegation hooes to purchase 10,000 metric tons of soybeans during the trip, and as of Nov. 5, one private deal had already been made. During their three-day trip, the group visited Sioux Falls, Brookings, Watertown and Aberdeen to visit agricultural companies and producers, plus Lake Area Technical Institute and South Dakota State University. In Aberdeen, the delegation stopped at DemKota Ranch Beef.
Ambassador Hamdi Saleh said he looks forward to creating a sustaining relationship with South Dakota companies.
“We did our homework and discovered there are a number of things that are very essential for us to buy from South Dakota, including soybeans and corn, and also to look into the type of technology we could have in agriculture,” Saleh said.
Saleh said Egypt is most interested in importing soybeans, corn, fishmeal and beef.
“Egypt is already one of the 10 top importers of U.S. soy and U.S. corn, but we want them to buy South Dakota soy and corn, and the only way that’s going to happen is if we can bring the people in to see the quality of our products, to see the quality of our people,” Saba said.
Among the delegates that joined Saleh, three were businessmen who also have extensive agricultural experience and knowledge — Ahmed Rebea Ali, Ibrahim El Meligy and Ahmed Essam Eldin. Hamdy El Hoseiny, a journalist for Rose El-Yousef, and financial expert Samia El Baroudy also were on the delegation.
State Rep. Nancy York, R-Watertown, and state Rep. Scyller Borglum, R-Rapid City, also joined Saba for the visit through eastern South Dakota.
“It’s important that a state like South Dakota can forget about the political lines, the right and the left, and work together for the good of this whole state,” York said.
In addition to agricultural products, agricultural technology was a high priority for the delegates.
“Egypt invented agriculture thousands of years ago, but continues to do the same thing,” El Baroudy said.
Saleh said he has enjoyed working with Midwesterners because they are partners, not just traders.
He said the downto-earth attitude he’s encountered has made business much easier than with large, urban corporations on the coasts.
Saleh said he is considering another trade mission to the area in February to continue the partnership between Egypt and South Dakota.
“Nobody talks about South Dakota, and you have something that is really very relevant to the world,” Saleh said.