U.S. Wheat Associates has started the push to win back the export business lost in Colombia due to the five-year delay in Congressional approval of the U.S.-Colombian free trade agreement. U.S. Wheat President Alan Tracy predicts U.S. market share will start to rebound very soon.
"They used to buy 80% to 85% U.S. wheat; it's down to more like 30% to 35% but that will come back," Tracy said. "But it is going to take work. You know you change your flour blend, you change your brand, your customers expect something that is slightly different. You know a baker with an automated process doesn't go change his flour source, so it's going to take a while to get it back, but we're working hard at it and we have a great relationship with the Colombian millers."
Tracy says he's sure the U.S. will reclaim its long-term share of Colombia's wheat imports in fewer than five years.
"We have a shipping advantage, we have an advantage in grocery boatloads because they like different classes and different amounts of different wheat and we're really the only ones who can supply them all of those," Tracy said. "And you know they are accustomed to using our wheat historically."
Because of relatively high prices - U.S. wheat is currently able to enter Colombia tariff-free. The Colombian government will permanently eliminate duties on American wheat once the FTA is implemented.