Earlier this year, Sri Lanka formally reopened to U.S. beef. An island nation off the southeastern coast of India, Sri Lanka has a population of about 20 million. Having endured many years of civil war and political conflict, as well as the deadly tsunami of 2004, Sri Lankans have recently enjoyed a much more peaceful existence, which has led to rapid economic growth and a revitalized tourism sector.
To reintroduce U.S. products to end users in Sri Lanka, USMEF teamed with importer East West Foods for a pair of one-day seminars in the capital city of Colombo. Funding for the seminars was provided by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP). The first seminar targeted chefs and purchasing managers from the Colombo metropolitan area, while the second welcomed foodservice professionals and meat processors from other cities – including some of Sri Lanka’s coastal tourist destinations. Participants included representatives of the Sri Lanka Chef Guild – including Gerald Mandis, the group’s current president. USMEF views the chef guild as an important point of contact for future outreach with Sri Lanka’s hospitality industry.
The program included an overview of the U.S. meat industry, including farm-to-plate details on U.S. beef production and an explanation of the USDA grading system. Proper handling and storage of chilled and frozen meat was also covered. Items sampled at the seminars included U.S. beef tenderloin, striploin and ribeye.
Feedback from seminar participants confirmed many of the findings from a Sri Lankan market evaluation conducted by USMEF in 2012.
“The hospitality sector is expanding rapidly, and has excellent potential for further growth,” said USMEF-ASEAN Director Sabrina Yin. “Construction of new high-end hotels and resorts is a good illustration of how Sri Lanka is re-emerging as a major tourist destination, and there are significant opportunities for U.S. meat.”
In conjunction with the seminars, USMEF hosted a trade reception targeting food and beverage managers and other foodservice professionals. Allison Areisa, counselor of economic and commercial affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, offered opening remarks at the reception.
“This is an intriguing new market,” said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific. “Sri Lanka was once an A-list global tourist destination, and it is definitely trying to recapture that allure with jet-set travelers. While our initial export volumes will be small relative to some other destinations in the ASEAN region, we see some exciting opportunities for U.S. exporters.”