Pork exports to Colombia show signs of rebound

United States remains Colombia’s largest pork supplier, as imports from other countries have also fallen over the past two years. Through August, Colombia’s 2016 imports of Chilean pork were 3,853 mt — down 34% from their 2014 pace. Imports of Canadian pork were down 55% to 2,865 mt.

Following implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement in 2012, Colombia quickly emerged as the leading destination for U.S. pork in the Central-South America region. Exports of pork and pork variety meat finished 2012 at 19,755 metric tons, up 73% from 2011. Export value was $54.1 million, up 87%.

Export growth to Colombia was also robust in 2013 and again in 2014, when exports peaked at 47,441 mt valued at $134.1 million. Exports slowed last year and endured a difficult first half of 2016, hampered by the recent rebound in Colombia’s domestic pork supplies and persistent weakness in the Colombian peso, which bottomed in February of this year at more than 3,400 pesos per dollar. By comparison, in mid-2014, the peso was trading at about 1,850 pesos per dollar.

According to USDA estimates, Colombia’s pork production increased 3% in 2015 to 300,000 mt (carcass weight equivalent), following a sharp decline in 2014. Production is projected to be steady year-over-year in 2016.

The United States remains Colombia’s largest pork supplier, as imports from other countries have also fallen over the past two years. Through August, Colombia’s 2016 imports of Chilean pork were 3,853 mt — down 34% from their 2014 pace. Imports of Canadian pork were down 55% to 2,865 mt.

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September export results released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation show signs of a potential rebound for U.S. exports to Colombia. September pork/pork variety meat volume was 3,456 mt — the largest since November 2015. Export value was the highest since October 2015 at $8.2 million. This coincided with a modest recovery for the Colombian peso, which traded mostly in the 2,900 to 2,950 pesos per dollar range in September — up about 15% from its February low.

In order to help regain momentum for U.S. pork in Colombia, the USMEF is looking to expand the mix of products exported and appeal to a wider range of buyers.

“To date, our market share in Colombia has been built mostly on cuts utilized by the further processing industry,” says Jessica Julca, USMEF representative in South America. “And while U.S. pork does have an excellent reputation in Colombia as high-quality raw material for processing, the foodservice sector has not been a large importer of our product.”

Chef Cecilia Alfaro prepares U.S. pork tasting samples at Alimentec 2016.

To expand its outreach to foodservice representatives, the USMEF recently showcased a range of U.S. pork items — including brisket, chops, boneless loins and bacon — at Alimentec 2016, a biennial food show held in Bogota. This promotional effort was funded by the Pork Checkoff and supported by two of the region’s leading importers, Calypso Del Caribe and Atlantic. Cecilia Alfaro, a culinary instructor at San Ignacio de Loyola gastronomy school in Peru, conducted three cooking demonstrations per day using various cuts of U.S. pork.

This was the USMEF’s first appearance at Alimentec, and Julca was pleased with the crowd it attracted.

“We were able to reach both types of audiences: those looking for a high-quality, center-of-the-plate ingredient that works in their restaurants, and those looking for a consistent, affordable protein to include in their menu plans,” she says. “That was the message that Chef Alfaro spread throughout the show — that U.S. pork is not only a high-quality alternative but also an affordable protein that can be used in hundreds of ways to prepare a healthy and delicious meal.”

Data sources: USDA and Global Trade Atlas 

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