“The product showcase gives us a unique opportunity to see customers from all parts of the world at one time, and in one place,” said USMEF Chair-elect Steve Isaf, president of Atlanta-based exporter Interra International. “It’s a very cost-effective way to meet clients – some current and some that are new prospects for us – and to be able to meet with them in one location over a three or four-hour period, it was really a fantastic event. As for the turnout, we had very strong representation in all categories with buyers from the processing, wholesale, retail and food service sectors – just an excellent spread of customers.”
Many of the buyers attending the product showcase were part of regional trade teams hosted by USMEF for an extensive look at U.S. meat production, processing and merchandising practices. One team was from the China/Hong Kong region, coordinated by Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific.
“We brought over eight individuals, two from China and six from Hong Kong,” Haggard said. “They were mostly importers and distributors, but we also had a chef and a restaurant purchasing manager representing the key buying team for a large restaurant chain. Most members of this trade team had not visited the United States before, so they were familiar with ‘the fork’ but not with ‘the farm.’ So we really focused on educating them about U.S. production and processing practices first, then showed them some foodservice and retail concepts as well. Both out in the field and at the product showcase, these buyers had a great opportunity to see a lot of items not currently in use in their marketplace. We think that’s really important, because once they see all that is available they develop ideas that expand their usage of U.S. beef and pork.” Also highlighting last week’s activities was an extensive tour of the Port of New Orleans, one of the nation’s most active and important shipping facilities for U.S. agricultural exports.
“The huge area served by this port, and the amount of product that moves in and out of it, are just amazing to me,” said USMEF Vice-chair Mark Jagels, a cattle producer and grain farmer from Davenport, Neb. “Until we visited here, I had no idea this port was served by six major railroads and it is fed by more than 14,000 miles of navigable waterways running through 33 states. I’m very thankful for the tremendous infrastructure this provides for getting such a large volume of our agricultural products out into the global marketplace.”
The port tour included a visit to a newly constructed cold storage facility owned by USMEF member New Orleans Cold Storage, which is scheduled to receive its first shipments of refrigerated goods on June 1.
“Our new facility has the capacity to store between 38 million and 40 million pounds of product, and we will be able to blast freeze 30 truckloads – about 1.2 million pounds – per day,” said Jim Henderson, general sales manager for New Orleans Cold Storage. “We expect this facility’s container capacity to be about 150 to 160 containers per week, and that’s really exciting for our beef and pork customers.”
Henderson added that having the opportunity to show the new facility to a large cross-section of USMEF members was a tremendous benefit for his company.
“A lot of our exporting customers now see the Gulf Coast as a great access point for all international markets, especially with the high cost of ground transportation to the West Coast,“ he explained. “It was very exciting for us to be able to host so many of them here at our home base, and to get them thinking about all the ways our new facility can serve their businesses. This meeting has really been a great experience for us and for a large number of our customers.”
At Friday’s business session, the board adopted a resolution proposed by the USMEF Exporter Committee regarding the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). Codex was created to ensure fair trade practices for food products and to promote coordination of science-based regulatory standards. Increasingly, however, some Codex member countries have adopted non-science-based approaches and trade restrictions, which could undermine the credibility of Codex as a science-based standard-setting body. The resolution urges the U.S. government, through its appropriate trade and regulatory agencies, to take an assertive role in defending the scientific integrity of Codex.
“This resolution reaffirms USMEF’s commitment to promoting science-based trade practices for the United States and each of its trading partners,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “We must strongly defend this philosophy, because it is critical to building and maintaining a level competitive playing field for U.S. beef, pork and lamb products across the globe.”