DENVER — Despite the recent suspension of certain US beef exports to Colombia due to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) concerns, the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) remains encouraged by the strong and growing demand in the country.

In April, Colombia issued a ban on US beef exports from the states with positive HPAI cases among dairy herds.

“With the issue of HPAI, there are nine states banned from exporting beef to Colombia,” said Homero Recio, Latin America representative for USMEF. “While this started back around April 15, there was a lot of uncertainty for the first week or 10 days, given that there was no official information passed on to our government. During that interim, our office down in Colombia was working closely with our government to see when we could get something official so that both exporters and importers would know how to respond. Since then, there has been some clarity to the situation.”

The nine states currently ineligible to ship to Colombia include Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas.

USMEF said the restrictions were “unfortunate” given the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States.

Trade officials said the ban was unfounded, lacking scientific basis.

Colombia has been the only trading partner to impose restrictions on US beef as a result of HPAI detections in dairy cows.

Recio reported that the United States is doing its best to overcome this trade barrier.

“We do have plants in other states where export certificates are now being granted and import certificates in Colombia are also being granted, so some trade has started back up,” he said. “Clearly, the supply is going to be more limited, but yet, we still believe there are some really good opportunities even given the situation.”

The market and demand for US beef is still strong in Colombia. The wet market is the traditional method for marketing US protein in the country. However, USMEF noted growth in supermarkets as well. Foodservice business is also improving significantly on the higher end, which services the target customer for US beef — those in the top 7-10% of earners in the Colombian population.

“The scene is changing,” Recio said. “Restaurants have opened back up. Everything is where we were pre-COVID and beyond that now to a bit. Their currency is relatively strong against the dollar. So yeah, things are good.”