Since the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement entered into force in 2012, Colombia has emerged as a leading importer of U.S. pork and a promising market for U.S. beef, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Last year, shipments of U.S. pork to Colombia reached nearly 100,000 metric tons at a value of $222 million, while beef exports set a new record of 6,724 mt valued at $26 million.
However, 2020 has been a very challenging year for exports to Colombia, mainly due to restrictions on economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a loss in value for the Colombian peso.
In fact, even before COVID-19 hit, Don Mason, USMEF representative in Colombia, said there were exchange rate issues with meat imports into Colombia.
“Closing out 2019 and coming into 2020, the dollar went way up, and that started impacting importers’ ability to price product, and then, of course, COVID came along,” Mason said.
He added, “It’s been a long haul for Colombia. They had complete or partial lockdowns from March clear through Sept. 1.”
Mason said restaurants and other foodservice operations in the country were hit very hard by COVID-19 restrictions, but activity is gradually beginning to return. Supermarkets and other retail outlets also struggled early on, but retail meat demand rebounded fairly quickly. Mason said several retail and foodservice operators turned to USMEF for assistance in upgrading their online presence and delivery services in order to adjust to changing consumer needs during the pandemic.
“We’ve actually helped some of the businesses that didn’t even have an online presence build an online presence and helped them with their delivery services,” he explained.
Colombia's meat processing sector – a major user of U.S. pork raw material – has been a bright spot, with facilities facing some labor-related challenges but managing to operate at or near full capacity.