A recent trade mission to Brazil and Colombia offered Pork Checkoff leaders new insights to increase trade opportunities for U.S. pork.

“Raising U.S. pork requires a global perspective and outlook,” said Karen Richter, National Pork Board board president and a producer from Montgomery, Minn. “Seeing firsthand how pork is produced in South America helped us gain a better understanding of the challenging logistics involved in raising, processing and marketing pork in Brazil and Colombia.”

Richter added, “We all face challenges, such as creating consumer demand for our product and fighting disease in our herds. But in the end, our operations are similar, and we can learn so much from each other.”

In Bogota, Colombia, Pork Checkoff leaders met with representatives of Colombia’s association of pork producers and toured a processing plant that uses U.S. pork as raw material. Board members also looked at the marketing and retail distribution side of pork production through meetings with importers and retail leaders.

Colombian pork industry leaders shared how their pork industry is working to increase consumer pork demand at a time when local producers are challenged with growing pork imports. “It’s important to increase the comfort level among Colombians about preparing and eating pork,” said Becca Hendricks, assistant vice president of international marketing for the Checkoff. “Since the country is a major U.S. customer, we hope to work with the Colombian industry to increase overall consumption.”

As a result of a 2012 free trade agreement with the United States, Colombia was the Central/South America region’s largest market for U.S. pork in both volume (34,099 metric tons, up 73 percent from 2012) and value ($88.1 million, up 63 percent) in 2013. U.S. pork exports to Colombia were up 164 percent for the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same time period in 2013.

Building Demand for U.S. Pork in Colombia
Leaders agreed that an opportunity exists to benefit both U.S. and Colombian producers through mutual efforts to increase Colombian pork demand.

“Prior to our visit, the Pork Board approved supplemental funding to be used toward a campaign to help Colombia increase its overall pork consumption,” Richter said. “The concept is that a rising tide will lift all boats,” she said. “If we help Colombia increase pork demand, it benefits their pork producers while building a relationship with the U.S. and increasing demand for U.S. pork.”

U.S., Brazil Share Goals
In Brazil, the board met with leaders of the swine cooperative SUINCO, the Brazilian Association of Swine Breeders and Agroceres PIC, a global pork genetics and production company. The group also met with Brazil’s ministry of agriculture.

“Brazil and the U.S. have different challenges with exporting meat, so it is great to work together,” said Claudio Nasser de Carvalho, Brazil’s SUINCO pig cooperative president.

Specifically, SUINCO is looking across Brazil’s entire pork production chain – from on-farm feed conversion to delivering pork to consumers. Nasser de Carvalho noted that pork producers
in Brazil are raising heavier market hogs, consistent with U.S. production.

Joao Donisete, general manager of Agroceres PIC in Brazil, agreed that there are many similarities between Brazil and the United States in terms of food production. These include efforts to improve meat quality while continuing to focus on enhancing animal well-being, protecting the environment, and hiring and training workers.

Keeping an Eye on the Goal
“In visiting with South American agriculture leaders, it is clear that the region will become an important agriculture powerhouse and will be vital to feeding our global population in the
decades ahead,” said Dale Norton, Board vice president and a producer from Bronson, Mich.

“We have great market opportunities in South America, but also a responsibility to work as partners with farmers there to address emerging disease threats and consumer demands,” Norton said.

A final take-away from the trade mission is the ongoing concern over foreign animal disease and the impact it has on the entire global industry.

“By sharing information, cooperating on research and building relationships with our South American counterparts, the United States will benefit in the long run by increasing the global consumer demand for pork,” Norton said.