The U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog: Market Analysis, Research & News
  • U.S. dairy export imperative: “We need to be present. We need to be there.”

    By USDEC Staff April 24, 2024

    A key focus at the USDEC Annual Membership Meeting last week was the importance of maintaining a strong and continuous presence in crucial global markets.

    The U.S. dairy sector must be present in the markets in which it serves. Traveling to those markets and meeting with dairy farmers, dairy processors, importers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators and policymakers is vital. 

    USDEC staff is working in these markets to help them “grow demand, understand the value of dairy and trust the U.S. as the supplier of choice to help augment and complement what they're doing in their countries,” said USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden.

    Krysta at annual meeting

    While U.S. dairy will always be domestically driven, exports these days are recognized as not only essential to the industry’s overall health but also to address the growing challenge of sustainably nourishing the world, USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden told attendees at the Annual Membership Meeting. 

    This point was further emphasized by an impressive group of speakers, many of whom offered special insight into the Latin American and Chinese markets.

    USDEC’s global presence—in China and Latin America, but also Southeast Asia, the Middle East/North Africa, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—is crucial to U.S. dairy’s success.

    Latin American opportunities strong

    In reference to Latin America, Harden emphasized the importance of collaboration, stating, "We share so many common issues and challenges that necessitate working together."

    Several speakers at the meeting agreed the opportunities are encouraging for U.S. dairy suppliers. Those speakers included Luz Maria de la Mora, Mexico’s former vice minister from the Secretaria de Economia; Edgar Vasquez, former Peruvian Minister of Trade; René Sanchez, marketing manager, Suministros y Alimentos; Aura Hernández, purchasing manager, Centurion Foods; Emilio Ho, CEO of Grupo Chela; Rodrigo Fernandez, chief of USDEC’s Mexico and Central America office; and Monica Ganley, USDEC senior director, Global Trade Analysis, who is based in Argentina.

    Across the entire region, when the economy grows, dairy demand grows, said Fernandez. And the economy at present is on a growth streak.

    “The key to maximizing opportunity will be determining the best products for each market and working to develop the market in a consistent way,” said Ganley.

    That includes being a consistent presence in the actual market—visiting regularly to observe and meet face-to-face with buyers and customers. In-person, in-market meetings were one of the critical recommendations voiced by virtually every speaker.

    “See the region as a partner,” said Fernandez. Work with manufacturers, work with the foodservice sector, to help them learn how to use dairy ingredients and cheese and how they might align with the local diet.

    Will Loux Latin America

    USDEC Senior Vice President of Global Economic Affairs William Loux, center, discussed “Exploring the Emerging Opportunities and Challenges in South and Central America” with Monica Ganley and Rodrigo Fernandez.

    Innovation assistance is another key. Ho said the Panama dairy sector needs more creativity and technology, and the U.S. could be a partner in providing that.

    Partnerships can also help overcome pricing challenges. Latin America in general is a price-sensitive market, said Hernández. Customers want quality at affordable prices. Promotions can help overcome pricing hesitance, she suggested. An initial discount can help earn trial and win over shoppers in the long run.

    “The U.S. dairy industry has to have a clear message,” De la Mora said. “You are an important partner to the region because you complement the domestic industry.”

    Krysta Latin America2

    From left, former Peru Minister of Trade Edgar Vasquez; USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden, and former Mexico Vice Minister Luz Maria de la Mora.

    In addition to the sound advice offered on Mexico, Central America and South America, USDEC arranged a special session for attendees to meet one-on-one with Latin American cheese buyers—again, to encourage relationships and business opportunities.

    China another example

    Yes, there currently are geopolitical tensions with China. But as Harden pointed out, "we can still do business... People still need nourishment."

    USDEC Executive Vice President of Policy Development and Strategy Jaime Castaneda emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong presence in China to build lasting relationships and drive positive impact.

    “We need to be present. We need to be there,” Castaneda said.

    USDEC remains dedicated to cultivating demand for U.S. dairy exports in China through various strategic initiatives. In late June, USDEC staff and member companies will engage in a trade and fact-finding mission to China in collaboration with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. This mission will involve one-on-one commercial meetings in Shanghai and Beijing to strengthen relationships and foster growth in the Chinese market. Likewise, USDEC leadership plans to meet with government officials and key trade associations.

    At last week’s meeting, USDEC members received a video message from Madam Yu Lu, vice president of The China Chamber of Commerce of Import & Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-Products (CFNA), highlighting areas of collaboration with USDEC and the U.S. dairy industry.

    Many of the USDEC member companies in the audience could agree with Castaneda and Madam Yu Lu that a consistent and persistent presence in the Chinese market is key to making a meaningful difference and seizing the opportunities that lie ahead.

    New export awards program

    The Annual Membership Meeting also was an opportunity for USDEC to roll out its new Excellence in Exports (ExEx) Awards Program.

    These awards will be given annually to recognize companies and individuals who go above and beyond to grow U.S. dairy business in international markets. The first full slate of ExEx award winners will be presented at the 2025 Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C.

    However, Harden laid the foundation at this year’s meeting by bestowing the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to Mike Durkin, president of Leprino Foods. Durkin earned the honor for his “unwavering commitment and visionary leadership in advancing American dairy on the global stage.”

    Krysta presenting award

    Accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Mike Durkin at USDEC’s Annual Membership Meeting was Adela Ramos, director of regulatory affairs at Leprino Foods Co. Ramos is shown at left accepting the award from USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden.

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. 

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