A group of agricultural officials representing various commodity and farm organizations from Iowa, recently returned home from a trade mission trip to Columbia and Panama. Leading the delegation of 20 officials were Iowa Lt. Governor Adam Gregg and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says the purpose of the recent trade tour to Columbia and Panama was to promote Iowa meat products.
“Predominantly, the focus was on identifying and seeing if there are additional opportunities to export pork and beef into those markets,” Naig said. “What we found was, absolutely, there’s an opportunity in both countries, Columbia in particular, with a population of 45 million people has a lot of opportunities to grow demand for pork. And we think that we’re well positioned to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Naig says Columbia doesn’t usually come to mind when discussing top trade partners. However, he says Columbia is an important market for Iowa farmers. The Iowa Agriculture Secretary says what has helped with the development of trade with the two Latin American nations is we have free trade agreements established with both Columbia and Panama.
“Maybe the other big takeaway was that we have free trade agreements with both of these countries. And we were able to really identify that that had a significant impact on opportunities to export U-S products into those countries,” he said.
Competition from other Central and South American nations such as Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil may lead you to believe the U.S. meat market into Columbia would be stifled. However, Naig says he has learned the Columbian consumer prefers the better quality of U-S pork and beef products. He says we also have an edge over our competitors because of logistics.
“We have a significant logistical advantage. Right? We can ship down to the Gulf and straight down into both of those markets very, very, easily,” Naig said. “And so, we definitely take advantage of that logistical opportunity, compared to other places. Now, we also compete on quality of our product. And I think that’s where, yes, both of those countries will look further into South America for beef in particular. But, boy when we compete with grass-fed beef with our corn-fed beef, we’re going to win on quality and taste, and so I think that is a distinct advantage for us.”
Naig says it is essential to establish relationships between Iowa farmers and foreign buyers to broaden the Iowa and U.S. agricultural trade.