oversight

Coordinated Handling of Agricultural Trade Leads Needed

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-11-29.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                           UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
                                    WASHINGTON, D.C.   20548


INTERTNATIONAL DIVlStON




                                                               NOV 2 9 ?971


         Dear Mr. Drake:

              The General Accounting Office has completed a review of the
         coordination between the Department of Commerce and the Department of
         Agriculture in the handling of private trade opportunities received
         from overseas posts. We noted a situation. during our review which we
         wish to bring to your attention.

              During fiscal year 1970 the Business Opportunities Staff of the /
         Bureau of Domestic Commerce received from overseas posts 373 trade
         opportunities for agricultural type commodities. They included cotton,
         grains, and other field crops; food and kindred products, such as
         meats, dairy products, and grain mill products and represented potential
         initial sales of over $50,000 each in many cases.

              Our examination of a sample of nine opportunities showed they were
         sent by the Business Opportunities Staff to industry- specialists in
         the Office of Consumer Goods Division and published in "Commerce Today",
         Discussions with these industry specialists showed that trade oppor-
         tunities are not routinely forwarded to business finns or trade
         associations to act on. The exceptions being the few identified for
         special handling. The specialists explained that by the time they
         receive a copy of the opportunity from the Business Opportunities Staff
         it has already been published in "Commerce Today"; consequently they
         felt there was little to gain by sending it out to anyone.

              Since agricultural type commodities appeared to be within the area
         of expertness that Agriculture possesses, we inquired whether officials
         of the agency were cognizant of the opportunities received by Commerce
         and whether Agriculture could make effective use of them. We found
         that Agriculture instituted a computerized program in June 1971 to
         disseminate opportunities received from Agricultural Attaches in Us S.
         posts to specific U. S. exporters. In addition, opportunities were
         published in the weekly newsletter, "Export Briefs", which is circulated
         to state agriculture marketing directors, Conmmerce field offices, and
         market development co-operators (trade associations). In some cases,
         agricultural opportunities are sent in to Commerce by commercial officers




                                 50TH ANNIVERSARY 1921-1971
unknown to the Attaches or Agriculture. There are no procedures for
coordinating these matters so Agriculture's practice has been to scan
the "Commerce Today" magazine for these opportunities and reproduce them
for dissemination when appropriate.

      We were advised that this practice is not very effective because by
 the time Agriculture becomes aware of the opportunity, it is many weeks
 old and the brief description provided is not adequate to describe to
 a potential supplier what the buyer wants. Moreover, Agriculture officials
 stated they needed more data such as the quality, quantity, type, and
 grade of the product requested. The Attachment demonstrates the lack of
 timeliness and lack of detail provided on opportunities we examined. For
 these reasons Agriculture officials simply publish the opportunities in
 the "Export Briefs". Of the nine opportunities that we discussed with
 Agriculture, seven were republished in the "Export Briefs" but no other
-dissemination was made.

     Officials advised us that had these opportunities been routed
directly to Agriculture and contained more complete information, appro-
priate commodity associations could have been notified, Lists of potential
U. S. suppliers could have been provided the Agricultural Attaches in the
countries concerned. In addition, the Export Marketing Service, which is
responsible for administering export programs for the sale of surplus
agricultural commodities could have been advised.

     We concluded that more effective coordination could be carried on
between Comnnerce and Agriculture with respect to agricultural trade
opportunities received by Commerce. As a result, the potential to expand
exports and foster business relationships of a continuing nature is not
being exploited. In view of this, we recommend that Commerce and
Agriculture jointly consider establishing procedures whereby appropriately
described opportunities are made available in a timely manner. We believe
this can be accomplished by proper coordination between Commercial Officers
and Agricultural Attaches overseas. In those areas where there are no
Attaches, guidelines can be provided Commercial Officers and distribution
made directly to Agriculture.

     In line with our recommendation we were advised that Commerce and
Agriculture officials planned to meet to consider the matters discussed
in this report. We would appreciate receiving your conmments and whatever
course of action is taken.

     Copies of this letter are being sent to the Secretary of Commerce;
the Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Commerce; the
Secretary of Agriculture; the Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service,



                                                                    -2-
Department of Agriculture; and the Foreign Operations and Government
Information Subcommittee, House Committee on Government Operations.

                                            Sincerely yours,




                                           / ohn E. Milgate
                                            Associate Director

Enclosure

Mr. Hudson B. Drake
Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director,
Bureau of Domestic Commerce
Department of Commerce




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