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Food exporting SMEs achieve more than 600 business meetings with potential buyers

CARTAGENA, Colombia — About 100 small and medium-sized enterprises carried out more than 600 business meetings with 30 trading companies from the United States, Canada and Italy, securing millions of dollars in deals.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through its Mesoamerica Project, the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), the Italian Development Cooperation of Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the support of Proexport Colombia organized the buyer-seller meeting LAC Flavors 2010 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on June 15th and 16th.

LAC Flavors 2010 is the second edition of a meeting between SMEs from Mesoamerican countries involved in exporting food and potential buyers from North America and Italy. In this year’s event, 15 Colombian exporters participated and exporting companies from Haiti were also present as special guests.

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IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno visited the business conference and spoke with small and medium-sized producers of fresh, organic and ethnic foods seeking opportunities in new markets. "To support the SMEs is the same as supporting the creation of new jobs, the creation of value chains and their integration into the international market," said Moreno.

In the first edition of LAC Flavors in 2009, $9 million in deals were achieved, which means that every dollar spent on the event generated $57 in exports. The 2010 LAC Flavors is expected to surpass that goal. On the first day of the event more than $3 million in business deals were closed.

"In a 30-minute meeting I was able to close a deal with an agricultural enterprise in Costa Rica for $30,000 per week," said Mark Armendariz, director of Spanish Food Solutions, a Long Island City, New York, company. "This Costa Rican company will supply us with three containers of green bananas every week, and that’s just the beginning."

The success of LAC Flavors lies in the strict selection criteria. The initiative promotes the participation of small and medium enterprises in sectors with export potential that offer quality products and certificates, and have export potential. Among the products with high export potential are organic and ethnic products, and those produced under the so-called "fair trade” practices. The export promotion agencies of each country help disseminate the information to companies and, along with the IDB, select the SMEs.

The event also organizes appointments in advance through a careful process of matchmaking, based on the profiles and interests of participating firms. Each buyer has an average of 30 business appointments.

The 11 export promotion agencies in the region attended the event to strengthen ties and trade relations between countries. Participating agencies include Beltraide of Belize; Procomer of Costa Rica; Exporta El Salvador, of El Salvador; Agexport of Guatemala, CFI of Haiti, FIDE of Honduras; Proméxico of Mexico, CEI of Nicaragua; Mici of Panama, CEI of the Dominican Republic and Proexport of Colombia.

LAC Flavors 2010 plans to put in place a quarterly monitoring system of business contacts and deals made during the event to quantify the impact on the volume of exports, expansion and market diversification.

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