While U.S. beef and pork are exported to more than 100 countries across the globe, the U.S. Meat Export Federation is looking to capitalize on untapped markets, especially those in which improving economic and political circumstances have created new potential for trade.
One example is Sri Lanka, where USMEF recently conducted an in-depth market evaluation using funding provided through the USDA Market Access Program.
Sri Lanka is an island nation off the southeastern coast of India with a population of more than 20 million. Until 2009, it was plagued by civil war and ongoing political conflict. The island was also devastated by a deadly tsunami in 2004, which killed more than 30,000 people. But recently Sri Lankans have enjoyed a much more peaceful existence, which has led to economic growth and a revitalized tourism sector. Sri Lanka's GDP grew by more than 8% last year, to about $60 billion.
Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region, says Sri Lanka has been closed to U.S. beef since 2003, but this issue may be revisited soon in light of the improving economic climate.
"The population eats a variety of animal protein; we think that is going to increase with economic development," Haggard says.
Haggard says USMEF recently met with government officials to learn about importing rules and regulations. The group also met with importers to see what opportunities there might be. Both beef and pork appear to have a strong potential market.
"[The market is] small at first, but let's think about China 25 years ago when we first went in. That was a small market as well. We were quite encouraged and are going to follow up with both U.S. government and importers on trying to advance our access to that market," Haggard says.