The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is preparing for a two-day pork and beef showcase that will be held in Panama City July 27-28. As USMEF Regional Director of Trade Development Gerardo Rodriguez explains, exporter interest in this event is very strong due to the rapidly growing sales opportunities in the region and the impressive lineup of buyers that will be in attendance. In addition to Panama, buyers are expected from Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Rodriguez notes that opportunities have recently expanded in several of these markets because free trade agreements have reduced tariffs and other trade barriers. Similar developments are expected in Panama and Colombia when pending free trade agreements with those countries are ratified by Congress.

Exports of both U.S. pork and U.S. beef set new records in the Central/South America region last year, and haven’t skipped a beat in 2011. Through April, U.S. pork exports have exceeded last year’s record pace by 24 percent in volume (nearly 56 million pounds) and 34 percent in value (about $61 million). Beef exports have jumped by more than 50 percent in volume (nearly 18 million pounds) and 85 percent in value (about $23 million).