Last year was a difficult year for U.S. red meat exports to Colombia, where COVID-19 took a major toll on meat demand and consumer spending. With demand expected to rebound this year, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is looking to expand the retail presence of U.S. pork and beef in Colombia.
“Columbia is a country where way more than 50% of the shopping—probably 75%-- is done in wet markets and the traditional sorts of markets,” explained USMEF Colombia representative Don Mason. “Some of our importers are looking at ways of adding points of sale in areas usually where the traditional markets are. Several importers have told me about their willingness to highlight U.S. product.”
He noted that the U.S. had to be careful in the past about not going head-to-head with Columbian pork producers, but recently, importers are much more willing to highlight U.S. product.
To capitalize on this, USMEF has launched a new education and training initiative for Colombian butcher shop owners and their employees. The efforts are funded through the USDA Agricultural Trade Promotion Program, the National Pork Board and the Beef Checkoff Program.
USMEF is putting a person in place who will look at the technical and product management side of their businesses. It will entail an audit that looks at their cold chain, their food safety, their work floor logistics and the technical aspects of their meat cuts—especially their U.S. meat cuts. From there, a technical training program will be developed so staff at these points of sale are prepared to do the job of selling U.S. meat in the right way.
Alongside of that, USMEF will be doing a marketing and publicity audit, working with their digital marketing efforts.
“I think we could see a substantial increase in the amount of product they move,” Mason added.
Last year, U.S. pork exports to Colombia totaled 67,000 metric tons valued at $147 million – down about one-third from 2019. Beef export volume also dropped by nearly one-third to 4,553 metric tons, valued at just under $20 million (down 22%).