A high level of interest in U.S. beef was evident during this week’s inaugural USMEF Meat Buyers Showcase and Seminar in Sub-Saharan Africa. The event, which was held in Accra, Ghana, featured educational sessions and face-to-face business meetings, attracted several U.S. export companies and more than two dozen buyers from Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. Funding support for the showcase and seminar was provided by the Ohio Corn Marketing Program, the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
Monty Brown, USMEF representative for the African Region, said that participating U.S. exporters appreciated the opportunity to discuss current and future business opportunities with buyers during the product showcase. Meanwhile, USMEF’s effort to educate those buyers about the advantages of U.S. beef and the procedures for importing these products was a major focus of the seminar.
“We were able to reach the region’s buyers with valuable information about our products in a setting that was really conducive to interaction,” said Brown. “The venue allowed us to showcase the attributes of U.S. beef, and then we let the buyers and our exporter members meet and talk business among themselves.”
An overview of the U.S. beef industry was a big part of the seminar, which also included an economic update of pricing trends and a logistics panel featuring vessel cargo experts from the Maersk Line and air cargo experts from Delta Airlines.
“I was surprised by not only the level of interest, but also the enthusiasm the region’s buyers had for U.S. beef, especially considering our relatively high prices,” said Heather Buckmaster, executive director for the Oklahoma Beef Council, who provided a beef industry overview during the seminar. “We had an in-depth discussion on production practices, especially as they relate to meat quality and the superior taste experience from U.S. beef. I would say the buyers were extremely enthusiastic about future prospects for high-quality U.S. beef in the region.”
USMEF is exploring opportunities in the region as part of an ongoing initiative. The showcase and seminar were the result of a meeting hosted by USMEF earlier this year in Atlanta disclosing findings of a 2014 research project identifying export opportunities in the region. Impressions from that meeting confirmed that U.S. packers and exporters are excited about the potential of Sub-Saharan Africa and anxious to build new business relationships in the region.
Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing, said that although a majority of consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa currently rely on traditional wet market settings to purchase food, change is afoot – not only in the way the population buys its food but also in the range of products they are buying and consuming.
“It’s become a legitimate market for U.S. poultry, and where poultry goes initially, as these economies develop, demand for beef is likely to expand,” Halstrom explained. “There is a rapidly growing and surprisingly sophisticated retail segment in the region, which is an encouraging sign for future meat trade.”
The level of interest in U.S. red meat in the fast-developing region continues to grow – on both sides of the trade table.
“The tone was one of optimism as it related to the future prospects of the region,” said Halstrom, adding that the Sub-Saharan Africa region is not without challenges. “But the demand component seems to be one that is able to override a lot of these challenges –especially if you take a medium to long-term view.”
The Ghana hotel sector is considered a good example of future growth potential in the region. Although there are limited options when it comes to five-star hotels and high-end restaurants, a shift is underway as the region develops. One example is the Kempinski Hotel, which is scheduled to open in Accra in November with two high-end restaurants. The Kempinski’s executive chef attended the USMEF showcase and seminar to explore U.S. beef options for the hotel’s restaurants.