Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The country is looking to both increase imports and expand its domestic production, and Wisconsin companies can play a role in both.

Romania is the third-fastest-growing economy in the European Union, with a GDP growth rate of 4.8 percent in 2016 and a projected 4.4 percent GDP increase for 2017. The strong economic growth was accompanied by policy measures such as a reduction in value added tax for food from 24 percent to 9 percent, and to 20 percent for other goods. These measures boosted the purchasing power of Romanian consumers and led to an increase of around 16 percent in retail sales of food in 2016.

To address the growing demand arising from consumers’ higher purchasing power and shifting preferences to processed Western foods and sales channels, 250 new food retail stores opened in Romania in 2016, representing 20 percent growth in the number of food stores.

Romania is a net importer of food products in many sectors due to underdeveloped domestic production and processing facilities. Top food import categories include processed fish, pet food, frozen vegetables, seeds and beef. In 2016, Romanian imports of agricultural-food products from the U.S. amounted to $139 million, an increase of 45 percent over the prior year. The main U.S. food product exports to Romania include seeds, food preparations, beverages, fruits, nuts and seafood.

Due to the growing domestic market, Romanian producers are likely to increase investment in production facilities to address consumer demand for locally produced products. This is a great opportunity for U.S. companies and food scientists to invest in Romania or to provide the needed expertise to assist in developing the industry. In addition, Romania’s food imports are expected to increase further, as infrastructure improvements provide increased access to super- and hypermarkets for the rural population.

Wisconsin exported $481,682 worth of oilseeds and grains to Romania in 2016, up from $450,436 in 2015 and $420,923 in 2014. Thus, there is a trend of rising exports to Romania in the oilseeds and grains category.

Wisconsin has strong potential to increase its exports to Romania. In particular, Romania needs to import more meat and grains. Wisconsin’s prepared meat and fish exports amounted to more than $206 million in 2015, making this the state’s seventh-largest category of exports in the food and beverage sector. Wisconsin companies should not miss the opportunity to provide their products, especially meat and grains, to Romania.

A good chance to explore these opportunities lies in visiting the INDAGRA Food Fair in Bucharest in October 2017 and the GastroPan Food Fair in Targu Mures. Further sector information can be retrieved from the Romanian Food Industry Federation and the Pro Romanian Food Association. Another opportunity is to use databases such as www.bestfoodimporters.com to find information and contact details for food and beverage importers and distributors in Romania.