February 1, 2017
New USMEF regional director sees potential for more export growth to Mexico, Central America and Dominican Republic
Oscar Ferrara joined the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) earlier this month as the organisation's new regional director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic.
A native of Paraguay, Ferrara brings an extensive educational and professional background to the position. He moved to the US in 2000, earning his master's degree and doctorate in food and resource economics from the University of Florida. He also holds bachelor of science degrees in both applied economics and agricultural engineering.
Ferrara was previously with USDA, working first in the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) before joining the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Office of Agreements and Scientific Affairs.
"In my position with FAS, one of the main priorities was to open markets and expand market access for US pork, beef and lamb in the Western Hemisphere," Ferrara said. "So I feel this experience will serve me well at USMEF, as we look to further expand demand for these products."
Capitalising on duty-free access achieved through NAFTA and the lower duties negotiated in the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), US red meat exports to this region have grown substantially in recent years, with the US being the dominant foreign supplier. But Ferrara notes that there is still significant room to expand demand for US products among the region's growing middle class, and he intends to build on USMEF's success by educating customers about the full range of pork, beef and lamb products available from US suppliers.
"There are a lot of areas in which we can expand our offerings in the region, and what I hope to do in this capacity is to expand customers' knowledge of the products we are exporting to these countries," Ferrara explains. "Many people know that the US offers safe, high-quality meat products, but we can further educate them on the options and choices available, as well as the unique attributes of US meat and the different methods of preparation and cooking. This will reinforce the great value these products deliver and build even greater customer loyalty."
In addition to customer education, Ferrara says it is vitally important to maintain strong relationships with importers, processors and distributors in the region.
"Trade servicing is absolutely critical, even in a region in which USMEF has a longtime presence," he notes. "Buyers want reliability and consistency from their suppliers, and USMEF serves as an important resource for them, helping ensure they can access the products that meet their needs. This is true whether we are working in established markets like Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, or in emerging destinations such as Nicaragua and El Salvador - there are many exciting opportunities for the US meat industry."
USMEF must also work closely with government officials in the region - an area in which Ferrara gained valuable experience while at USDA-FAS.
"I had the pleasure of working with USMEF on many issues during my time at FAS, and the level of cooperation was outstanding," he explained. "When we were seeking to gain full access to Mexico for US beef, for example, we accompanied Mexican regulators to US plants and other production facilities in the United States. USDA and USMEF worked extremely well together in organising these visits and ensuring that we communicated effectively and constructively with these officials. These efforts are very important for eliminating trade barriers and expanding markets for US meat."