The Colombian government has admitted that an increase in whey imports as part the Free Trade Agreement with the United States will hurt dairy farmers, reported local media Friday.
U.S. whey products can now compete tariff-free with local dairy products – a fact the Minister of Agriculture Juan Camilo Restrepo said could damage Colombia’s diary industry.
“The Agriculture Ministry will search every last crevice of the Free Trade Agreement to see how we can prevent excessive imports of whey that will hurt producers in general and the Colombian dairy industry,” said Restrepo.
Whey, the liquid by-product of cheese, is used in animal feeds and food products, including dairy products, processed meats, snack foods and infant formulas. The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of whey and a traditional competitor to Colombian dairy companies.
In 2009, Colombia increased tariffs on some whey products from 40% to 94% and established an import quota in an effort to aid local producers struggling in a saturated market. The measures were abolished when the FTA took effect May 15.
“We will see that there is no abuse of these imports, because if you really were to exacerbate their volumes, that could create serious problems for one of the most threatened industries,” the minister said.
The ministry has promised measure to mitigate the fallout from increased whey imports, including placing imported goods on different shelves from the diary products made in Colombia.