This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 8/16/2018

Colombia’s agricultural output grew 4.9% in 2017, 4.4% over the previous year. Businesses dealing with livestock performed particularly well, with poultry farms growing at a rate of 6.4% and egg harvesters at 7.7%, according to the country’s statistics agency DANE. The swine business grew 20% during the same period.

The agricultural sector is expected to grow 2.4% in 2018 and growth is projected to be driven mainly by poultry (estimated growth of 6.5%), eggs (estimated growth of five percent), and swine (estimated growth of five percent).

The Government of Colombia offers subsidies to import new agricultural equipment. Although Colombia does not ban the import of used agricultural equipment, there is a general preference for new equipment due to subsidies and performance issues with used equipment. Most used agricultural equipment originating from the U.S. comes with technologies such as GPS, air conditioning, hydraulic steering, and other features that make this equipment relatively expensive for the Colombian market. Colombia’s larger growers usually prefer to buy new agricultural equipment without state-of-the-art gadgets because the prices are comparatively lower.

Although farmers appreciate the added value of higher-quality fertilizer products, they are typically unable to buy them due to low returns in the Colombian agricultural market. Instead, many opt for the wide variety of fertilizers available in the local market that are relatively cheap.

Urea is one such fertilizer and is popular because it is widely available and often produced locally or imported at low prices. U.S. companies selling higher technology inputs will need to articulate their value proposition (higher yields, less frequent application, etc.) and demonstrate cost savings over the long run. The market currently is focused on short term costs, and education is needed to encourage this sector to focus on long term value and total costs. 

Fertilizer generally needs to comply with ICA (Colombian Agricultural Institute) requirements to be imported into Colombia. This process may take up to three years and costs USD 5,000 – USD 8,000 per product; registration must be done by a Colombian company, which results in them “owning” the registration.

Colombia’s Imports of Urea by Country

Partner CountryUnited States Dollars  % Share  % Change 2017/16
Trinidad & Tobago$12,024,617$12,768,948$21,164,6736.6510.7012.0565.75
United States$189,306$99,248$17,507,2180.100.089.97     ∞
Source: Graph by U.S. Commercial Service Bogota with Global Trade Atlas data.

Colombia’s total imports of urea fertilizer grew 47% in 2017 compared to 2016. Of this total, 41% of imports (USD 72 million) came from Venezuela, followed by China at 15% (USD 26 million), Trinidad and Tobago at 12% (USD 21 million), Russia at 11% (USD 20 million), and the United States at 10% (USD 17 million).

The upward growth trend in imports of fertilizer can be explained by a relatively strong harvest in Colombia’s agricultural sector in 2017.

Leading Sub-Sectors                                                                                                      
According to figures from the National Federation of Poultry Farmers of Colombia (FENAVI) and the Colombian Pork Producers Association (PorkColombia), poultry, eggs, and swine show an increasing trend in 2017, both in terms of domestic production and imports. 

U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia of meat products and grains have been performing particularly well over the last several years. Exports of frozen pork, poultry, and beef have seen strong growth, as have dairy products and beans (especially lentils). In addition, United States’ exports of live animals to Colombia were up in 2017 and were mainly for reproductive applications (animal husbandry). Best prospects for agriculture exports to Colombia encompass machinery and equipment for Colombia’s growing domestic production of poultry, eggs, and pork. 

In 2017, palm oil production in Colombia grew 42% to 1.6 million tons, due to increased flowering of recently planted crops. Colombia has more than 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of palm plantations, and this industry is projected to grow significantly in coming years. Palm oil is used in a wide range of food and household products, from cookies and ice cream to soups and cosmetics, as well as in biofuels. Colombia’s cultivation of palm oil could reach production of more than 2.5 tons in the next several years, making Colombia the third largest supplier of palm oil in the world, behind Indonesia and Malaysia. The planting of more palm crops will depend on the implementation of government policies that increase investment in the sector. Colombia has about 16 million hectares that are suitable for palm oil cultivation. Growers require more clarity on land use rules and a reduced tax load, as well as labor policies for rural areas.

Colombia’s palm oil industry will generate opportunities for U.S. companies that provide new technologies and equipment for palm oil extraction as well as for U.S. investors interested in investing in this sector. The U.S. embassy is working with Colombia’s palm industry to promote environmental sustainability and fair labor practices, and U.S. companies that offer products and services that promote sound environmental practices should find growing opportunities in this sector. 

In October 2015, the government launched the program “Colombia Siembra” (Colombia Sows) to encourage the production of food staples. Colombia Siembra involves an investment of USD 500 million through 2018 and aims to boost agricultural growth by 6.2%. Colombia Siembra will address productivity and the competitiveness of this sector by investing in machinery, irrigation, and technology.
After the peace accord was ratified in October 2016 between the government and the FARC guerrillas, the agricultural sector has been one of the biggest beneficiaries since rural development is one of the government’s priority sectors in the post-accord era. Many of the demobilized combatants will migrate to cities in search of employment opportunities, but the government wants to make jobs available in the countryside and remote areas where the FARC have been living and operating for decades.

Trade Events
Agro-industry and livestock exhibition that takes place in Bogota, Colombia, every two years in the month of July.
Expo Agrofuturo
Knowledge and business trade show for the agricultural sector in Colombia that takes place in September. Expo Agrofuturo has become one of the most effective marketing tools to promote products, land use, and investment in Colombia’s agricultural sector. It takes place every year in September.
Palmex Latin America
The only specialized Palm Oil exhibition in Latin America that brings together upstream and downstream palm oil companies and supporting industries. The event takes place in the city of Barranquilla to showcase the latest developments in the palm oil industry.  
Sugarex Colombia
Sugar expo and conference held once every two years in the city of Cali. It is Colombia’s largest specialized sugar and bioethanol technology event that brings together sugar companies and supporting industries. The event showcases the latest developments in the Colombian sugar and ethanol industries.  

Web Resources                                                                                                                
U.S. Commercial Service Bogota contact: Julio Acero, Commercial Assistant
Tel: 57 1 275 2635

Key Contacts

Federación Nacional de Avicultores de Colombia
Asociación Colombiana de Porcicultores (PorkColombia)  
Ministerio de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural (MADR)

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Colombia Agribusiness Trade Development and Promotion