U.S. Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Ted McKinney recently led a historical trade mission to Colombia and Panama, which included a large group of American exporters. Colombia and Panama remain two of the fastest-growing export markets in the Western Hemisphere for U.S. farm and food products.
“The record size of this trade mission delegation demonstrates the degree of U.S. exporter interest in these markets,” McKinney said prior to leaving for the trip. “I’m thrilled that representatives from 54 agribusiness and associations and six state departments of agriculture are on board and ready to connect with potential customers from both Colombia and Panama.”
California agricultural interests were represented during the trip, particularly the nut industry. Blue Diamond Growers and Mid Valley Nut Company were among the representatives from more than 50 other agricultural companies who participated in the historical trade mission.
“We have an all-time high record of entities or people attending,” McKinney noted during a teleconference with members of the media while in Colombia. “They’re largely in a hotel ballroom doing what I lovingly call ‘speed dating’ where they’re meeting with customers.”
Since entering into free trade agreements with both Colombia and Panama in 2012, which McKinney noted has had “a lot of success,” exports of agricultural products have shown tremendous growth. According to USDA figures, Colombia was 12th among major agricultural export markets in 2018, purchasing $2.9 billion of American agricultural products. Panama was the 38th ag export market, showing an increase of 59 percent over the previous ten years.
When embarking on agricultural trade missions such as this, McKinney said there are three key components. The main focus is on facilitating relationships between buyers and sellers to facilitate an increase in commerce between the countries. There are also important policy discussions, as well as visits to major buyers of American products.