Pigmeat focus included in EC trade visits to Colombia and Mexico

European farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, is visiting Colombia and Mexico this week in his first “diplomatic offensive” to open up new markets for EU agri-food products.

“I expect the visit to be intense and valuable in terms of opportunities”, said Mr Hogan, pictured above. “The Colombian and Mexican markets are thriving and provide good potential for the dairy, pigmeat, fruits and vegetables, spirits and wine sectors.”

The commissioner is accompanied on the visit by business delegates from no fewer than 34 companies and producers’ organisations, drawn from 14 EU member states.

“I look forward to building on our existing trade agreements and showing that Europe is open to business, in particular for agri-food products,” he said.

Just how much pigmeat progress can be expected is open to question, however.

“There may be some potential in these two markets but I wouldn’t expect a massive trade,” AHDB Pork’s market specialist manager, Stephen Howarth told Pig World.

“Mexico is quite a large pork importer, taking around 700,000 tonnes last year, but, as you might expect, most comes from the US (85%) and Canada (15%). The bulk of shipments are hams and it’s unlikely that the EU could compete on price for them, especially given the much higher transport costs. Therefore, any shipments are likely to be for lower value cuts but the market for them is limited.

“Mexico is also a significant offal importer, taking 200,000 tonnes. There might be more chance of EU product competing in that market, although currently the US and Canada dominate again.

“Colombia is a much smaller importer of pork, taking 53,000 tonnes in 2014. Again, the US and Canada are the leading suppliers, at 75% and 16% respectively, with almost all the remainder sourced from Chile. Offal imports are just 5,500 tonnes.

“I suspect that shipping any significant volumes of pork to Colombia would mean developing consumer demand. Pigmeat consumption is relatively low in the country at around 6kg/head, with beef and poultry being the dominant meats. However, if pigmeat consumption was pushed up, additional supplies would probably be based on imports as I don’t think the domestic industry is that strong.”

It’s against this background therefore that commissioner Hogan will meet the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, today, as well as the Colombian ministers for trade and agriculture.

He’s then due in Mexico on Wednesday this week when he will meet the Mexican minister of agriculture and economy. Several visits to local producers are also planned.

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Freelance journalist Colin Ley is Pig World's website news reporter