Latin America is a rapidly growing region for U.S. pork and beef exports but labeling, documentation and other technical issues still present significant obstacles in some individual markets. With support from the Beef Checkoff Program and the National Pork Board, USMEF conducted an educational seminar in Laredo, Texas, designed to assist companies exporting U.S. red meat to Mexico, Central and South America and the Dominican Republic. USMEF is a contractor to the Pork Checkoff and a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff.
Alejandra Valdez, a veterinarian who serves as USMEF’s Mexico City-based technical services manager, identified and explained technical issues that frequently confront exporters serving Mexico and Central America. Cheyenne McEndaffer, USMEF director of technical services/access presented similar information for South American markets. She was joined in this discussion by Jessica Julca, USMEF’s South America representative.
Also presenting at the seminar was Dr. Jessica Forshee, staff officer with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) Office of Policy and program Development. Forshee guided participants on how to utilize the FSIS Export Library and gave an overview of other FSIS resources available to exporters. Dr. Juan Rodriguez, director of the FSIS international liaison office at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, was also on hand to answer questions specific to Mexico.
McEndaffer noted that the seminar was designed for personnel directly involved in export transactions and who are responsible for ensuring prompt movement and delivery of their companies’ products.
“In the USMEF Export Services Department, most of our interaction with member companies is with the international sales staff, and we have a lot of discussions with them on high-level market access issues,” she explained. “But we really wanted to have a seminar dedicated to people working in logistics, warehousing, document preparation, etc. This was an opportunity to provide them with valuable information that they can share with their colleagues, and now they know that they can reach out to USMEF on technical challenges they face in a range of international markets.”
Valdez opened the seminar with an explanation of the process that must be followed when exporting pork, beef and lamb to Mexico, highlighting common mistakes that can cause shipments to be detained or rejected.
“Mexico imports exceptionally large volumes of U.S. red meat and for the most part the process runs smoothly,” she said. “But the Mexican government can be very tough on labeling and documentation, so these were topics heavily emphasized in this seminar. Mexico also has very high turnover among its inspection personnel, so it is definitely in the U.S. industry’s interest to minimize documentation errors and ensure that everything is in order before product leaves the exporting establishment.”
Valdez also walked participants through requirements and potential pitfalls for exporters serving Central America, placing a particular emphasis on Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
Much of the South America discussion centered on Colombia, which has rapidly developed into a major destination for U.S. pork and beef. McEndaffer cautioned seminar attendees that presentation at the port of entry tends to be critically important in Colombia.
“We don’t run into many documentation issues in Colombia, but dirty containers and labeling are a very big focus for the food safety inspection service in that country,” McEndaffer said. “There is also growing interest in chilled products in Colombia, so we covered many of the challenges of getting chilled meat through the customs process in a timely manner and offered suggestions that will help exporters reduce the risk of detained or rejected shipments.”
In addition to a discussion of well-established export markets, the seminar also addressed recently opened destinations such as Brazil and Argentina. Exports to these markets have been slow to develop, due in part to unique technical requirements.
“The U.S. has had beef access to Brazil for two to three years now, but we still have a limited number of eligible suppliers,” McEndaffer said. “We’ve had pork access to Argentina for a year and beef access there for four to five months, but the U.S. has yet to make any commercial shipments to Argentina. So we know there are commercial challenges, such as registering products and product labels, but we wanted to show our member companies that there are opportunities in these markets and that we can help make this process easier for them.”
Seminar participants also toured two cold storage facilities – United States Cold Storage and Laredo Cold Services – as well as SR Forwarding, a freight forwarder serving the Laredo area. Feedback on the seminar and facility tours was very positive.
“The seminar was a great experience,” said Luis Angeles, international sales representative for Indiana Packers Corporation. “I picked up a lot of valuable information that I can share not only with my logistics team, but also with upper management. I have a shipping background but still learned a lot, so a session like this would be especially beneficial for someone new to the industry.”
“It was really helpful to see that other companies run into similar issues in Latin America and to have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with people who can answer our questions,” said Maria Guadalupe Ramirez, logistics team leader for Tomex Foods. “Seminars like this should be held more often – it would help so many people.”