U.S. Grains Council joins USDA Agricultural Trade Mission to Colombia

U.S. Grains Council
Farm Forum

U.S. Grains Council leadership recently met with market players in the Colombia feed, poultry and livestock sectors — including industry associations and agricultural ministry officials — to express support for one of the top markets for U.S. coarse grains and related products.

The meetings took place as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Mission (ATM) to Bogota, Colombia, June 4 to 7. Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney led the mission, which included one of the largest ATM delegations ever organized by the USDA to develop stronger ties with one of the top U.S. agricultural trading partners in the Western Hemisphere.

“Since the United States entered into a free trade agreement with Colombia in 2012, agricultural export growth has been robust,” said USGC Chairman Jim Stitzlein. “During ATM discussions, the Council emphasized our willingness to maintain this important Colombian market for corn and co-products.”

Thirty-five different U.S. organizations participated in the mission. The Council’s delegation included Stitzlein; Ryan LeGrand, incoming USGC president and chief executive officer; Greg Hibner, agribusiness sector director of the USGC Board of Directors; Marri Tejada, USGC regional director for the Western Hemisphere; Ana Maria Ballesteros, USGC regional marketing director; and Juan Diaz, USGC regional consultant for ethanol.

“The ATM was a good opportunity for USGC leadership to speak directly to the largest U.S. corn importers in Colombia, thank them for their business and answer questions regarding the current crop and future planting intentions,” Stitzlein said. “Hearing from the incoming CEO was a clear sign to our Colombian customers of how important their market is for U.S. farmers and agribusinesses.”

Colombian purchases of U.S. coarse grains and grain-related products have continued a steady upward trend since the U.S.–Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement went into effect in 2012. Setting a new record for the fifth year in a row, Colombian purchases of U.S. corn continued upward in 2017/2018 to 5.08 million metric tons (200 million bushels), a 7.4 percent increase year-over-year. Thus far in the 2018/2019 marketing year (September 2018-April 2019), Colombia ranks as the third largest market for U.S. corn, purchasing 3.72 million tons (nearly 147 million bushels).

Colombia also currently ranks as the seventh largest market for U.S. ethanol, purchasing 37 million gallons (13.1 million bushels in corn equivalent) so far this marketing year, up 56 percent year-over-year and approaching the 2017/2018 year-end total of 37.5 million gallons (13.3 million bushels in corn equivalent).

During the ATM, the Council provided Undersecretary McKinney with briefings on ethanol opportunities and details on disagreements between the two countries to further convey during his meetings with the Colombian ministries of commerce and agriculture.

“Our message is simple, we want to get back to business as usual,” Tejada said. “Yes, there is a current trade dispute on U.S. ethanol, but we are hopeful to resolve the issue without creating demand destruction.

“The United States is an excellent supply stabilizer for when domestic ethanol production cannot meet the demand. We see Colombia as a strategic ally and have been actively working on demand development in the country for more than 30 years. And this is an exciting time to be engaged in the Colombian market, especially as we see significant potential for growth in both the animal and energy sectors.”