Last year was a tremendous year for U.S. pork and beef exports to Colombia, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Through November, U.S. pork exports to Colombia were up 65% versus the prior year to 63,583 metric tons, with the value up 66% to just under $150 million. U.S. beef exports increased 28% year over year in volume to 4,818 mt and rose 15% in value to $14.7 million.
However, as USMEF technical services manager Cheyenne McEndaffer explained, red meat exports to Colombia still face significant technical barriers.
“Colombia is an interesting market. We have full access for all beef and pork products, which is great, but we have been running into some technical issues that have impeded our exports and continue to affect both the exporters wanting to send to the market and importers willing to buy,” she said.
Some examples of these challenges include getting product approved during port inspections. McEndaffer said Colombian veterinary officials are very tough about any dust or dirt in or on the containers, which she said just unfortunately happens during transit. Blood or purge coming out of the boxes has also been an issue. McEndaffer explained that this leakage occurs before the product is frozen in the U.S. and loaded into the container.
Another issue is labeling discrepancies, USMEF reported, as Colombia requires both Spanish and English labels. If there are any errors, McEndaffer said it gives the inspectors the chance to retain or even reject that product. “So, the goal is to work with the exporters and the importers to make sure we: (a) know what their requirements are and comply, and (b) make sure that Colombian officials are enforcing them as written.”
There are also some transportation issues, especially for chilled pork and beef, USMEF noted. As such, the majority of U.S. exports to Colombia are frozen meat products.
McEndaffer said there are three key ports in Colombia, but the transportation infrastructure means it can take multiple days and sometimes even weeks to get the product to key cities.