The U.S. Meat Export Federation now has its first-ever regional representative in Africa. Before joining USMEF, Matt Copeland, who is based in Durban, South Africa, traded agricultural commodities in the region for more than 15 years, including several in the meats industry. He most recently served as Interra International's sales manager for both Sub-Saharan and southern Africa.
"I've been thrilled to be a part of the meats industry, have learned lots and overseen all sorts of problems solved through a lot of these African countries and I believe I can add quite a lot of value to the daily issues that our members are facing when trading with Africa," Copeland says.
Small volumes of U.S. beef and pork have been entering Africa for some time, and its rapidly growing economy is attracting more and more interest from U.S. meat exporters. However the region has been known for a significant amount of risk and uncertainty. Copeland says a local, experienced presence will be of value to USMEF member companies looking to expand their business in Africa.
"We have wonderful regional growth demographically as well as from a GDP per capita point of view. The demographic side of Africa will almost double by 2100 in population size," Copeland says. "For our members, we have someone now here who has really good levels of trust with certain importers into these countries. So in that respect, we might be able to remove some of the headaches associated with African trade in the past and then also there are other opportunities, that perhaps without having had a local person on the ground, marketing and promotion would have been more difficult to administer."
Copeland also sees opportunities in Africa for more than just variety meat, as consumers become familiar with higher quality products.
"We have the hotel industry, we have a very well established retail industry and we have wholesale markets," Copeland says. "From an affordability point of view, we would obviously look to drive home the ideas around quality nutrition provided through the variety meats that come here, but secondary to that, we have some very wealthy consumers who are looking for really spectacular quality. We'll be working with some of the retailers just to help the local consumer understand that there is a spectacular product that eats really well, that they wouldn't have been exposed to it until now."