In a symbolic illustration of the opportunities created by the new free trade agreement with the United States, Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. has purchased cattle from a Montana ranch.
Gabriel Silva will ship 50 cattle from the McMillan Shorthorn Ranch in Lewistown, Montana, to his own ranch in Colombia, the ambassador announced in a move designed to boost the image of American beef.
“I will call it a landmark event,” Silva said, according to the Billings Gazette newspaper. “This is the first time we’re going to take live cows from Montana to Colombia and we chose a respectable family with integrity.”
Silva toured the ranch during a state-wide visit led by U.S. Senator Max Baucus that included ambassadors from South Korea, Brazil, Vietnam and Australia.
With Colombians earning wages double that of a decade ago, Silva said the market was ripe for increased U.S. exports of cattle and beef.
As part of the FTA that took effect May 15, the Colombian government agreed to lift all mad cow disease (BSE) -related bans on cattle of all ages and some organs (livers, kidneys, and stomachs).
The deal also eliminates a 12% tarriff on live cattle purchases and high tarriffs on top-quality cuts of U.S. beef.
The American beef industry took a blow after the discovery of BSE in 2003 led to import bans from countries around the world, including Colombia. The U.S. has been laboring to increase exports of live animals and prove that U.S. beef is safe.
“When the Colombian ambassador chooses Montana cattle for his own personal ranch, it not only supports Montana ranching through that direct sale, it shows the world that Montana beef is 100 percent safe and the best quality around,” noted U.S. senator Baucus.
During the visit, Silva also stressed Colombia’s keenness to increase flower exports as a result of the FTA.
Colombian flower sales to the U.S. stands at around $1 billion a year, a figure expected to grow 4% to 5% yearly as a result of the FTA, Silva said.