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Undersecretary Ted McKinney speaks to U.S. Grains Council USGC

McKinney to lead Colombia trade mission June 4-7

Representatives from 54 ag businesses and groups and six state departments of agriculture will join record-large trade mission.

Colombia and Panama are among the fastest-growing markets in the Western Hemisphere for U.S. farm and food products. American exporters seeking to tap that potential will join undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs Ted McKinney in Bogotá, Colombia, for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s largest-ever international trade mission June 4-7.

“The record size of this trade mission delegation demonstrates the degree of U.S. exporter interest in these markets,” McKinney said. “I’m thrilled that representatives from 54 agribusiness and associations and six state departments of agriculture are on board and ready to connect with potential customers from both Colombia and Panama.”

The U.S. entered into free trade agreements with both countries in 2012, and since then, agricultural export growth has been robust.

“Our food and farm exports to Colombia have nearly tripled, from $1.1 billion in 2012 to a record $2.9 billion in 2018, and while Panama’s a much smaller market, we’ve also seen our exports grow significantly, from $490 million in 2012 to $683 million last year,” McKinney said.

In addition to representatives from the companies and organizations, McKinney will be joined by Minnesota commissioner of agriculture Thom Petersen, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry Bettina Ring and officials from the Georgia, Idaho, Missouri and Montana departments of agriculture.

Nine groups from Minnesota plus the University of Minnesota Extension plan to attend. National groups that include the U.S. Wheat Associates, U.S. Grains Council, U.S. Soybean Export Council, U.S. Dairy Export Council, USA Rice Federation and National Cotton Council plan to send representatives as well.

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) entered into force on May 15, 2012, laying the foundation for a surge in U.S. agricultural exports. Despite its geographic proximity to major U.S. competitors Brazil and Argentina, Colombia -- the third-largest economy in South America -- purchases half of its agricultural imports from the U.S.

Preferential access from CTPA and a strong Colombian economy have allowed the U.S. to increase its market share from 19% prior to CTPA to 50% in 2018. Changing demographics, a growing middle class and consumer trends toward more modern retail outlets are expected to keep demand strong into the future for high-quality U.S. agricultural exports, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) noted in a recent report.

Major U.S. agricultural exports in 2018 included corn, soybean meal and oil, soybeans, pork and pork products. Since implementation of CTPA, U.S. exports of meat such as beef and pork and raw materials like corn and soybean meal have experienced tremendous growth.

FAS reported that corn accounts for nearly 32% of U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia. Since implementation of CTPA, the U.S. market share for corn jumped from 6% to 97%. In Colombia, 95% of corn imports are destined for animal feed and the remaining 5% for human consumption. Expanding poultry and livestock production is expected to keep demand for corn strong into the future.

“Dairy products have benefited from promotional efforts, innovative packaging and growing consumption because of urbanization and expansion of the middle class,” FAS added. Prior to CTPA, Chile was a major supplier of dairy products to Colombia. Preferential treatment for U.S. dairy products began immediately in 2012, increasing U.S. exports to $73 million in 2018.

Meat products such as pork, poultry and beef are more in demand by urban consumers because of Colombia’s changing demographics. Higher incomes have shifted predominately vegetable-based diets to diets incorporating more animal protein. The U.S. is the leading supplier of pork, poultry and beef to Colombia, with market shares of 91%, 87% and 75%, respectively.

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