The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Latin American Product Showcase began in 2011 as a modest gathering of U.S. exporters and prospective buyers in Panama City. But as USMEF prepares for the ninth edition of the showcase, it has exploded in popularity and fostered dozens of new business relationships. Last year’s event, held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was the largest to date, attracting 190 importers, distributors, retailers and restaurateurs from 20 different countries. They connected with 54 exporting companies, sampled U.S. products and attended educational seminars highlighting the advantages of U.S. red meat.
From the very beginning, the Nebraska Beef Council (NBC) has provided financial support for the Latin American Product Showcase. This investment has helped the U.S. beef industry capitalize on the region’s rapidly growing appetite for high-quality beef and improvements in market access secured through free trade agreements in Central America, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru and Chile. In this decade beef exports to Latin America have more than doubled in value, expanding from $150 million in 2010 to $375 million last year.
NBC directors have participated in the showcase, gaining a firsthand look at markets that once relied mostly on domestic product but now represent important destinations for a wide range of U.S. beef cuts. Ivan Rush of Scottsbluff attended the 2018 event, and the personal interaction between buyers and sellers left a lasting impression.
“People meeting people is very important in international trade, and seeing this level of activity – exporters renewing old acquaintances as well as meeting new customers – it’s very impressive,” Rush said. “I’m really excited to see a strong future for exports to this region, because that will continue to drive profitability for our operations.”