U.S. corn market share in Columbia was eroded severely during the long delay in ratification of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

And no sooner was the FTA finally ratified than the U.S. experienced the worst drought in decades, that resulted in a short crop and short supply.

Colombia imports 3.1 million metric tons (130.3 million bushels) of corn annually. However, last year, the U.S. market share hit an all-time low of 7 percent.

As U.S. production rebounds, rebuilding market share in the face of strong competition from what are now established South American exporters is a high priority.

The U.S. Grains Council recently escorted a team of Colombian end-users throughout Missouri, Illinois and Louisiana to get a firsthand look at the 2013 crop, receive updated pricing information and explore the idea of establishing strategic partnerships to start buying directly from U.S. companies.

"There are still barriers to overcome for the United States to regain the market share leadership once held in Colombia, but with the help of well-informed Colombian importers armed with knowledge about U.S. grains this gap could easily be overcome in the near future," said Cesar Diaz, USGC marketing specialist for the Western Hemisphere.

"In fact, prior to the Colombian end-users tour of the United States, the Council was able to confirm that three vessels of corn had been purchased by Colombian importers. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a strong return for U.S. corn in the Colombian market."

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The Colombian end-users were able to view the U.S. competitive advantages, including corn quality and consistency of supply.

Team members are now ready to move forward in expanding their businesses and growing Colombian demand for feed grains. As Colombia's demand for feed grains expands, the Council is continuing to identify constraints that inhibit Colombian trade with the United States, such as increasing competition, trade policy constraints, evolving biotechnology regulations and concerns about grain quality.

"With the implementation of the free trade agreement, the Council is working to regain market share by promoting the advantages of U.S. origin, such as freight rates, consistency of supply, transparency of the market and the quality of U.S. corn," said Kurt Shultz, USGC regional director for the Americas.

"The United States is the natural market to supply Colombia due to its proximity and, assuming a normal corn crop, the U.S. market share should begin returning to normal levels."

The program was implemented in collaboration with the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

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