An enthusiastic group of 75 buyers from throughout Central and South America mingled with 18 U.S. exporters this week for a first-of-its-kind product showcase held in Panama City. The event was partially supported with beef checkoff funding from the Nebraska Beef Council and the national Beef Checkoff Program.
“The feedback that we’re getting from participants is extremely positive,” said Craig Uden, Nebraska Beef Council chairman from Elwood, Neb. “I was very impressed both with the number of customers from this region as well as the senior level of decision-makers from these companies. With companies such as Walmart-Chile represented here along with smaller local retailers, it was a very diverse base of customer interest.”
Nebraska beef Council Chairman Craig Uden (far right) meets with buyers in Panama City
The two-day program attracted buyers from Panama, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Columbia, Chile, Peru and the Dominican Republic to introduce them to high-quality U.S. beef products.
“Our main goals were to give our members a chance to see the market firsthand, meet with importers and see the growing opportunities in Central and South America,” said Gerardo Rodriguez, USMEF regional director of trade development.
Buyers visit the product showcase booth of Smithfield Foods International
“While we’re hopeful that free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia will be signed soon, USMEF isn’t waiting for that,” said Rodriguez. “We’re already in the market and we know the players, so we’ll be well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunity if and when the FTAs are approved.”
The region covered by the product showcase is a booming one for U.S. beef exports. Through July, U.S. beef exports have jumped 53 percent in volume to 15,196 metric tons (33 million pounds) valued at $42.6 million – a 74 percent increase.
“The showcase participants were very excited and enthusiastic about the growth of this market and the potential for U.S. beef,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president of global marketing. “What they saw here was a large contingent of buyers who weren’t just window-shopping. They came here to buy, and we expect this event will lead to new business relationships and new sales of U.S. beef.”