Seeing growth potential for U.S. pork in the Colombian market, USMEF recently conducted seminars in Bogota and Medellin designed to highlight economically priced pork cuts that deliver value for Colombian restaurateurs, HRI managers and retailers. The seminars, which featured overviews of the U.S. pork industry and product demonstrations by a Columbian chef, was funded by the Pork Checkoff.
“The attendees were mainly importers, distributors and foodservice representatives, though some retailers were also there, as was the head of the Colombian Chef Association,” said Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president for international marketing. “The goal was to give them an overview of where we are in terms of U.S. pork production and the availability of U.S. pork going forward.”
Hanes also offered ideas on how USMEF can support customers’ efforts to expand usage of U.S. pork, noting that the U.S. exports to Colombia have mostly consisted of cuts utilized by the further processing industry.
“The chefs and restaurant managers who took part in the seminars were very excited, because I don’t think they realized the opportunities that U.S. pork offers them when it comes to being profitable,” said Hanes. “We talked about supply and pricing going forward, along with the versatility of the cuts. Several of these restaurant owners and chefs had previously been customers of U.S. pork, but had scaled back in recent years because of exchange rates and other trade reasons. They are enthusiastic about the current situation, and so are the restauranteurs who are just now considering U.S. pork. The great thing about these seminars is that the chefs who are already customers were supporting and backing up what we were saying about the attributes of U.S. pork.”
Chef Miguel Angel Hurtado demonstrated several cuts, including St. Louis spare ribs, cushion meat, bone-in loin and bone-in ham. As part of his presentation, Hurtado broke down each of the cuts and provided examples of how to prepare them.
“Chef Hurtado did a great job of extolling the taste, quality and safety aspects of U.S. pork,” said Hanes. “He really connected with the audience since he is also Colombian and understands their concerns and issues. He is very knowledgeable about U.S. pork and was really able to take cuts such as the bone-in loin, ham and ribs and show how they can be utilized in the Colombian cooking style.”
To provide examples of U.S. pork’s versatility, lunch was served to attendees featuring a variety of U.S. pork dishes.
Jessica Julca, USMEF representative in South America, noted that the past few years have been challenging for U.S. pork in Colombia due to the weak Colombian peso and its impact on pricing. “However, growing supplies of U.S. pork has helped level off prices and the availability of high-quality, affordable cuts is gaining interest from red meat buyers in the country,” said Julca. “Following these seminars, I had several discussions with buyers who had great interest in learning more about the steps necessary to import U.S. pork.”
Meanwhile, Julca said USMEF plans to conduct similar U.S. pork seminars in other Colombian cities in the near future, to take advantage of U.S. pork supplies to regain market share.
After the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement in 2012, U.S. pork exports to Colombia grew rapidly in 2013 and 2014, peaking at 47,441 metric tons valued at $134.1 million in 2014. Exports slowed in 2015 and suffered a difficult first half of 2016, hampered by a rebound in Colombia’s domestic pork supplies and persistent weakness in the peso.
A rebound emerged in the second half of 2016, highlighted by a 68 percent increase in October export volume (5,862 metric tons) and a 77 percent increase in value ($14.6 million). October muscle cut exports to Colombia were the largest on record at 5,428 mt, up 58 percent year-over-year.