Iowa Beef producers look into Central American Market

by Ryan McCarthy
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The Iowa Meat Trade Mission explored the markets of the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

AMES, Iowa- Some Iowa beef producers joined in the state’s Meat Trade Mission to the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica in February. Scott Heater and Dean Black wanted to explore some new avenues of trade and export.

Heater, chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, explained how important this exploratory mission was for the group. 

“The US is the largest importer of agricultural products to the Dominican Republic with an average increase of 15 percent since the implementation of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2007, Heater said.  “We had the opportunity to visit quite a few of the meat processors and supermarkets that import US beef along with dining at restaurants that serve U.S. beef.”

Heater goes on to say, “In Costa Rica, along with the tourists, there is a growing middle and upper class that is funded by the tourism business. These groups have created a 392 percent growth for beef imports since the CAFTA was implemented.”

Another inventive way these countries introduce beef to meet their consumer demands is through the use of learning centers. Chefs from resorts and restaurants are brought into importers and distributors to instruct them in proper handling and preparing of beef products. 

“A major part of the economies of Dominican Republic and Costa Rica is from tourism,” Black said. “Two-thirds of the tourists are from North America and want to enjoy high-quality US beef when they dine. The resorts and restaurants want to offer this beef to meet their guest’s demand. In visits with importers and distributors, the message was clear; they can trust the US in supplying a great tasting, quality, and safe product.”

The Meat Trade Mission was coordinated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and led by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

The Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Pork Producers Association, and Iowa Corn Promotion Board were all featured representatives. The beef checkoff provided partial funding for this mission.

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