Kansas Corn Commissioner Terry Vinduska recently learned firsthand about opportunities and obstacles to building grain export markets to Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
Vinduska, a Marion farmer who is vice chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, returned last week from traveling to those three as a part of the USGC Board and Officers mission.
“The purpose of visiting the Dominican Republic and Colombia was to show market presence and that we are a reliable supplier, along with increasing market share,” he said.
In Colombia, the Grains Council had the opportunity to meet with the U.S. Ambassador for Colombia. Vinduska said the U.S. is missing out on significant exports to Colombia and other Central American countries because of the lack of a trade agreement.
“The Ambassador briefed us on U.S.-Colombian trade,” he said. “There is a great deal of potential here, but the U.S. hasn’t signed the trade agreement.
“We must do all we can in order to get that passed. We lose $5 million a year with Colombia because we have no trade agreement. That’s huge. Colombia wants to trade with us because we can provide grain cheaper than our competitors because we are closer.”
The USGC visited a variety of places in the Dominican Republic ,including Port Rio Haina Feed Plant, the largest poultry producer in the country. The company recently built a new feed mill in order to double production and began using DDGS six months ago.
The group also toured CND Brewery. This family-owned brewery is the largest in the Dominican Republic and uses 100 percent U.S. barley and corn grits.
The council’s time in Panama was directed toward Canal Authority. They discussed projections for the future and plans for the new canal with Alberto Aleman Zubieta, Panama Canal Authority general administrator.
The USGC Latin America and Caribbean Regional office had an official opening of the Council’s newest international office in Panama City.
“The failure of the United States to ratify pending free-trade agreements in the area has caused a significant loss in grain business and trade,” said chairman Rick Fruth. “It also has had a consequential effect on the economic development of our friends and allies in the Latin American region.
“By establishing an office in Latin America and the Caribbean region, the Council is strategically positioning itself to defend U.S. markets while simultaneously enhancing the quality of life of our trading partners.”
Kurt Shultz is the director of the Panama City office. Shultz has worked for the Council since 1999 and previously served for seven years as USGC regional director for the Mediterranean and Africa.
In its first year of operation, the Latin America and Caribbean Region office will focus on the needs of each country, in order to extract greater value for U.S. producers.
“The United States has a significant tariff disadvantage in these countries,” Schultz said. “It is a top priority of the Council to level the playing field of the market in order to obtain greater U.S. market access.”
The Kansas Corn Commission is a grower board that determines how the half-cent per bushel corn checkoff is invested in the areas of market development, research, promotion and education.