Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earthquake? What earthquake?

There's one benefit to being so tired that you're asleep as your head hits the pillow—you sleep right through an earthquake.

Early this morning a magnitude 4.4 quake struck 40 miles (75 kilometers) north of Lima. Then, a few hours later, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake was observed by the U.S. Geological Survey just 10 miles west of Lima. Now, for our part, only a few of us felt anything in the hotel with the early quake. And, we were on the road to the airport by the time of the second earthquake. So, it wasn't that scary to our group.

However, the Associated Press is reporting that five houses collapsed in Lima, while traffic on the primary coastal highway was interrupted for more than an hour. We didn't even realize a quake had occured until we made it to the airport and saw the giant crowds outside that had been evacuated from the terminals after the second quake.

Never fear, we all made it to San Jose, Costa Rica safe and sound this afternoon. We have a day to rest up a bit, then it's more meetings Monday, a travel day Tuesday, Mexico City Wednesday and Thursday and then home again on Friday.

Visiting with Lima millers

In our whirlwind tour of Lima, March 28, we met with three different millers who use U.S. wheat in their production.

First, we stopped by ALICORP, and spoke with Manuel del Campo, grain purchaser. ALICORP mills about 750,000 metric tons of wheat per year for the pasta and flour business. Then, we headed to MOLITALIA, and spoke with Jimmy Suni, general manager, and Javier Moarri, operations manager. Finally, it was off to Cogorno S.A., and a meeting with Andres Borasino, the general manager.

At each location, the trade team talked about how high wheat prices are affecting millers, the Peruvian free trade agreement, and the future acceptance of genetically modified wheat by Peruvian millers.

Here, del Campo and the trade team check wheat prices in his office on the visit to ALICORP. (Journal photo by Jennifer M. Latzke.)

Lima sights

Here are a few of the sights of Lima, most were taken from the interior of our van as we were headed from appointment to appointment. Such is the luck of a busy trade team!

With so much construction and updates to Lima, there is an ever increasing American presence on the billboards around town. Here's a familiar sign—for a John Deere dealership. Just proof that no matter where you go, agriculture is still the same.

Next, is a picture of the gate to the Port of Lima. While there wasn't a lot of time to tour the port facilities, it was interesting to see them from outside the gate.

Our last appointment for the day was with Dr. Eduardo Ferreyros, the Vice Minister, Foreign Commerce and Tourism of Peru. Ferreyros and Alejandro Daly, the President of the Wheat Millers Committee, were part of the negotiations team for the Peru-U.S. free trade agreement. From left are Chet Edinger, Daly, Ferreyros, David Clough, and Richard Starkebaum.

Finally, here's one of the many entrepreneurs who roam the streets of Lima, hawking everything from newspapers to ice cream. (Journal photos by Jennifer M. Latzke.)

Meeting with the Ag Attache in Peru

Five meetings in one day. If we discovered anything about Peruvian wheat importers, millers and officials, it's that they are eager to do business with the world. And, American wheat producers have solid relationships to build upon when trading their products to this country.

Our Thursday morning (3/28) began with a breakfast meeting with Eugene Philhower, the agricultural attache for the U.S. Embassy in Peru. Philhower explained that Peruvians have a high consumption of pasta for Latin America, and they also have a diverse diet that includes rice and potatoes. Most importantly, though, Peruvians are including trying to include more traditional Peruvian breads in their diets.

The Peruvian Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Philhower said, is on its way to implementation. In the coming months the Peruvian Ministry will be wrapping up the implementation process. The agreement, which Philhower had a hand in negotiating, was embraced by most of the Peruvian agricultural industry.

"On the coast, where it's more of a desert and growers use water management to turn the desert into asparagus and avacado, dairy and grape production, the economy is booming," Philhower said. "In the Highlands, where it's more subsistence agriculture with local producers growing potatoes, corn and trees, many fought this ag agreement tooth and nail."

In the end, though, the agreement is a done deal and the country is preparing for implementation by reviewing and updating its own legislation, as well as updating its infrastructure. Peru is also working to comply with requirements for intelectual property rights protection, which should be implemented by July 1. The goal is to have everything in place by Jan 1, 2009.

"The advantage of trading agricultural products with Peru is that it brings a stable economy to foreign investors," Philhower said. Local growers can plan ahead and predictability in the market is good for them as well as for the country in general, he explained.

A day of meetings in Bogota

(I'm playing catch-up folks. Here are a few of the photos from our stop in Bogota, Colombia, March 27.)

I started out my morning with the news, only in Spanish. Here's the headlines for March 27 in Bogota. My Spanish is slowly getting better. Our U.S. Wheat South American Region Vice President Alvaro de la Fuente has been helping me. I'm sure he's tired of me and my Midwestern accent (a la Peggy Hill) but he's being a good sport.

Our first meeting of the day was with our Agricultural Attache in Colombia, Richard Todd Drennan. Here, he speaks with USW Board Member David Clough, from North Dakota, and Russell Nemetz of Northern Broadcasting in Montana.

As we stepped out of the hotel I finally had a good shot at getting this photo of one of the many horse-drawn carts that run on the roads in Bogota. I've never seen chrome rims on a buggy before, but there's a first time for everything!

We walked three blocks over to the offices of Felipe Laserna, president of CIGSA, a purchasing agency for 16 mills in Colombia. Here, Laserna explains the climate and logistics of moving wheat to and around Colombian mills, using a topographical map. From left, are Laserna, de la Fuente, Colorado USW Board Member Richard Starkebaum, and Clough.

This was the sight from our hotel. The spired building is a convent at the top of this mountain overlooking the plains of Bogota.

Our final stop on our Bogota leg was at Pastas Doria, a pasta maker that imports annually 65,000 MT of wheat. here, Guillermo Botero, supply manager, shows us the company's latest product for busy noodle consumers.

(Journal photos by Jennifer M. Latzke.)

Comments, questions and a schedule...

So, here's some of the answers to some of our comments on the blog. Thought I'd post here so you can just get them all in one place.

First, our schedule is really TIGHT. For example, in Bogota, we had three meetings, but traveling across town takes an hour or so, in heavy traffic...and we had to fly to another country late that evening. In Lima, today, we had five hour-long meetings crammed into one day, and we still have to travel to another country. So, the schedule isn't really regular as far as posting. I'll be writing up full stories for future issues of High Plains Journal/Midwest Ag Journal, though. And, I'll be posting pictures tonight and tomorrow.

Tomorrow (3/28) we leave Lima early in the a.m. and hit Costa Rica (San Jose) around 1:30 p.m. Central or so. Two days in Costa Rica, then a day of travel on Tuesday, then Mexico City, Mexico Wed., and Thurs. with a full travel day home Friday.

Weather in Bogota and Lima was nice. Bogota was like spring in Kansas, just cool enough not to be too hot. Lima, though, was extremely humid. Anyone who's traveled to Eastern KS in August would understand...Lima's 10 times more humid.

Finally, the total wheat consumption for Colombia that they import is rather high. Let me check on the exact figures and get back to you. Good questions Everyone!

Remember, keep those questions coming, and tell your friends to follow along on our journey to Costa Rica and Mexico this coming week at!