soybean field

USB’s Customer Focus Action Team Holds Off Shore Observation Meeting in Panama

The Customer Focus Action Team (CFAT) held the first in a series of United Soybean Board (USB) action team off shore meetings August 12-14 at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama City, Panama.  These meetings were sponsored by USSEC.  Approximately 120 participants attended a program planned by USSEC aquaculture and Latin American staff that offered attendees real learning opportunities about the various Latin America soy and aquaculture programs while allowing them the opportunity to engage in discussions with customers and those involved in the soy industry in this region.


CFAT Chairperson Sharon Covert welcomed all attendees and USSEC Regional Director – Americas Francisco de la Torre presented a summary of the customer focus program.  USSEC Regional Deputy Director Nayeli Vilanova spoke about soy in Latin American social programs.  Other topics covered on the first day of the conference were soy logistics and the importance of the Panama Canal expansion; overviews of the livestock and feed industries in Venezuela and Panama; U.S. trade agricultural opportunities in Central America, Mexico and Colombia; Mexico’s place in the global economy and trade alliances; the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the U.S. and Panama and the FTA between the U.S. and Colombia; the aquaculture industry in Latin America; an overview of the Latin American corn market; and an update on the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH).
The conference’s second day began with a visit to the Panama Canal Authority Training Center, where participants learned about current canal operations.  The canal is 99 years old and the canal expansion project, which will double the canal’s capacity, is scheduled for completion in 2015.  This session was followed with a tour of the Miraflores Visitors Center Observation Deck and Museum.  560 million bushels of U.S. soy exports pass thru the Panama Canal yearly.  The meeting continued after lunch with a focus on aquaculture.  USSEC Technical Director – Soy in Aquaculture Program Dr. Michael Cremer gave a lecture titled “Aquaculture around the World.”  Mr. de la Torre spoke about USSEC’s Americas aquaculture program and the2012 Latin America Aquaculture Investment Workshop.  USSEC Aquaculture Marketing Manager Colby Sutter discussed USSEC key customer focus aquaculture programs and grower leader Russ Carpenter reported on the recent aquaculture grower leader trip to Vietnam & China.
On the third day of the meetings, groups either participated in the Open Blue Aquaculture Tour or the Port of Balboa Tour.  Open Blue is an aquaculture producer that farms cobia off the Panama coast.  This tour took visitors to the Open Blue Inland Facilities in Puerto Lindo and provided them with a tour of the Open Blue Hatchery before traveling to the new Open Blue Hatchery in Viento Frio for a brief overview.  This group wrapped up with a visit of the Open Blue Port Facility in Miramar.  The second group traveled to the Port of Balboa for a tour of the port faculties.
This Off Shore Observation meeting provided U.S. soy representatives the opportunity to meet and interact with Latin American customers.  By finding out the needs of these customers, members of the U.S. Soy Industry can help all aspects of the value chain be more profitable.