This fall the long delayed free trade agreements between the United States and South Korea, Colombia, and Panama were passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Dorr says while this is good news, there is repair work to be done.
"The tragedy is that it took a long time and in the course of that for a variety of trade reasons we lost substantial market share of corn in Colombia," Dorr said. "At one point we had a two million ton market; it has now dropped to 500,000 to 700,000 tons."
For that reason Dorr, USGC chairman Wendell Shauman, and National Corn Growers Association Chairman Bart Schott are in Colombia this week Dorr describes the trip as the chance to do some high level groveling.
"We want that corn market back," Dorr said. "We are going to go down and do whatever we have to do to convince people that the U.S. is the cheapest, the most transparent, and frankly the market with the highest quality product, and we're going to do everything we can to recapture the lion's share of that market."
Although the FTAs have been passed and signed they still have to be implemented, something that Dorr expects to take several months. This trip is to lay the groundwork for when that occurs and also to reinforce the transparency of purchasing corn from the United States.
"You have completely redirected your purchasing because it was cheaper for a variety of trade, tariff, and other relationship agreements to buy it out of Argentina," Dorr said. "Those trade transactions, those counter party transactions, are not nearly as transparent. So consequently you have to go in and unwind that and convince people starting at the producer level that in fact our quality is still high and that in fact our pricing structure is superior."
Dorr says that more than one trip is going to be necessary to work aggressively to get them back to the table. He says this is the time to do that so when the agreements are implemented they are ready to start buying.