04/01/2020

US $83 million in international business opportunities for Colombia

For two weeks, ProColombia’s 80th Business Matchmaking Forum brought together approximately 1,300 business representatives via digital platforms. Among them were 901 Colombians from 21 departments as well as 400 buyers from 44 different countries, with the United States, China, Mexico, and Spain generating the most opportunities. Business deals made during the meeting totaled nearly US $4.5 million.

Products from the apparel, agri-business, and manufacturing sectors were the most sought after by the 400+ buyers from 44 countries who participated in ProColombia’s 80th Business Matchmaking Forum. The event took place virtually, from March 16th to 27th, and immediately secured business deals worth US $4.5 million. Expected short- and medium-term sales for the 901 Colombian exporters hailing from 21 departments total US $83 million.

José Manuel Restrepo—Colombia’s Minister of Trade, Industry, and Tourism—stated, "The results indicate that businesses are carrying on, and that now, more than ever, we must find innovative ways to support businesses in their exporting and growth processes, connecting the international demand to Colombia’s supply, and taking advantage of the opportunity for internationalization. Everyone showed resilience in adapting to changes and using technology in the best way possible, therefore more international companies could learn, via a virtual platform, about the wide range of high-quality goods and services that Colombia’s business network has to offer.”

ProColombia president Flavia Santoro stated, “We made use of all available digital platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, even WhatsApp. One of the advantages of this set-up was that, with this two-week format, there was more time for negotiating, when compared to face-to-face meetings. Similarly, we were able to form partnerships to mail samples, because for certain products, buyers like to see and touch products before purchasing. We are working to ensure that every promise made during the event effectively turns into an internationalization project.”

The United States registered the most business opportunities with US $17.9 million in expected business, followed by China with US $11.8 million, Mexico with US $8.6 million, and Spain with US $7.6 million.

The agri-business value chain generated the most expected business, totaling US $27.9 million, followed by the manufacturing sector with US $25.5 million, apparel with US $19.5 million, chemicals and life sciences with US $5.9 million, and Industry 4.0 with US $3.9 million.

 

Successful virtual meetings

Both Colombian and international business representatives assured that the virtual meetings were "fruitful” and “offered good omens" for medium- and short-term business.

Several success stories emerged from the event, including that of Ana Carolina Rojas, founder of the American company Orolait, located in the state of Texas. “The company has been dedicated to selling swimsuits for nursing mothers, and our production is in Houston, Texas. However, after about 15 meetings during the 80th Business Matchmaking Forum in this virtual format—which went very well—I decided that I would like to move production to Colombia, due to the high-quality fabrics. We are currently moving towards opening our e-commerce platform to sell our products in other states within the U.S., and we’ll look for more partners in Colombia in order to expand our garment portfolio to include sportswear and casual wear, among others.”

Additionally, Monica Fonseca, CEO of The Misses Bonney—a boutique located on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia that specializes in clothing and gifts for children up to six years old—shared her thoughts. “We are looking for high-quality clothing suppliers in Colombia. We know that Colombia has good textiles—better than China’s and Vietnam’s. I am already importing outfits for boys and girls and it has gone really well. Now I want to do business with more Colombian suppliers to include other garments, as well as toys, furniture, and dolls,” she confirmed.

Liu Jing, deputy manager of Concesionaria Férrea de Occidente SAS—who works with the Chinese company China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation—said, “We are looking for suppliers and products that are 100% Colombian, in order to fulfill our commitments to the Bogotá-area Regiotram project. All meetings went very well and now we know of many more Colombian products. We hope to continue working with the contacts made to see if we can secure medium-term business deals.”

As for Colombian business representatives, Germán Acevedo, general manager of the Tech4riders Innovation Center for Motorcyclists—whose motorcyclist’s airbag vest results in a 90% reduction in injuries caused by accidents—stated, “I enjoyed the Virtual Business Matchmaking Forum’s format, adapted for the current COVID-19 situation. Our company is currently in a phase of international expansion; we would like to extend our operations throughout the American continent, especially in new markets—such as Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic—where there are a many motorcycles.”

As the legal representative of Aromas del Viento SAS—a company that brings together 28 coffee growers from the municipality of Colón, Nariño, about four hours from Pasto—José Cerón indicated, “I have been working with ProColombia for two years, and I participated in the Bicentennial Macro Matchmaking Forum.  There are good prospects. This year, we scheduled several meetings in the 80th Virtual Business Matchmaking Forum to see if we can export directly to countries such as South Korea, the United States, Mexico, and Chile.”

Flavia Santoro added, “Without a doubt, these are inspiring cases, starring persistent, innovative, and talented businesspeople who are a true reflection of Colombia’s business network. Likewise, internationalization does not stop here with this Business Matchmaking Forum; we will continue working hand in hand with our businesses and will redouble our efforts to support them in their export processes.”

Exporters’ virtual showroom

The 80th Business Matchmaking Forum in a Virtual format also offered three complementary spaces to meet the needs of Colombian exporters: the Value Chain Matchmaking Forum, the Solutions Segment, and the Virtual Showroom.

During the event, a Virtual Showroom was made available to Colombian businesses to display their products and services to international buyers via an online platform, which has had more than 4,800 visits. The platform includes uploads from 214 Colombian companies in total: 87 from the Apparel sector, 65 from Agri-food, 28 from Manufacturing, 20 from Industry 4.0, and 14 from Chemicals and Life Sciences.

On Monday, March 16th, the Value Chains Matchmaking Forum, was held in order to promote local suppliers. With support from Colombia Productiva and as part of the Compra lo Nuestro program, more than 250 virtual business meetings were held. During the event, over 200 Colombian exporters offered and requested containers and packaging, technological solutions, construction materials, uniforms, and agri-food and supplies—generating on-site sales worth over US $16 million and expected business worth about US $428 million.

During this forum, four anchor companies dedicated to Colombian retail—including PriceSmart and D1—learned about Colombian exporters’ fresh and processed foods, meats, and clothing, therefore supporting a strategy to promote the private label business model.

Likewise, as part of MinCIT’s trade facilitation pillar, the Solutions for Internationalization Segment offered Colombian business representatives a chance to ask questions about foreign trade. The Internationalization Factories (Fábricas de Internacionalización) program, recently launched in February, also participated. Other entities—including Bancóldex, Innpulsa, MinCIT, MinAmbiente, Fiducoldex, and other collaborators and partners from various sectors—held virtual meetings with Colombian exporters in order to show them the services available.

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