Chilean firms in the food and forestry sectors are finding fertile ground in Georgia as they expand into the U.S., taking advantage of a free trade agreement they say has room to bear more fruit 11 years after better connecting the two economies.
The U.S. is already Chile’s second largest trading partner behind China, with $9.2 billion of Chile’s $23.5 billion in exports heading to the States.
But trade opportunities could further grow as the South American country of 16 million people heightens its visibility and brand in the U.S., using forestry and food to build its reputation in a state where those two industries play an important economic role.
“This is the eleventh anniversary of the free trade agreement between our two countries, and it’s been incredibly helpful for bilateral trade,” said Sacha Garafulic, director of ProChile Miami, which promotes the exportation of Chilean products and services. “We are working with several companies to enter the U.S. market and although my office handles 12 states, our priorities are Florida, Texas and Georgia.”
ProChile formerly had an office in Atlanta, and the country’s ambassador a few years back highlighted Georgia as one of its priority states, noting that Chile would consider reopening the office, an idea that has yet to take shape.
Chile is widely known as the world’s largest producer of copper, but it’s using food to climb the value chain. Chile is the top exporter to many countries of blueberries and grapes, and it’s a top trader of avocados and other super foods.
The problem, Mr. Garafulic says, is brand awareness. “The only product people really are aware of is Chilean wine,” he says. “So, I guess wine will be our ambassador.”
Andrés Arancibia, president of the Chilean-American Chamber of Commerce of the South in Atlanta and managing director in the U.S. for Agrosuper, the largest protein producer in Chile, said the brand awareness problem is slowly shifting.
“Generally Chile is very well known for certain things and not so well known for others,” he told Global Atlanta in an interview. “It’s easier selling wine than fresh products and fruits. In our case, our salmon products are well known. It depends on the market. Selling chickens, for instance, is a challenge. But I also see that some of the companies we deal with are talking with us about exporting to Chile. They are starting to see Chile as a stable market with opportunities.”
Based in Rancagua, Chile, Agrosuper produces chicken, pork and salmon, and processes them into nuggets, deli meats and hamburgers and then distributes worldwide. Some of its products are sold under the Super Pollo, Super Credo, Sopraval, La Crianza and Super Salmon brands.
With its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, Mr. Arancia said his 18-person staff (16 in Atlanta) is finding its message increasingly falling on receptive ears.
“Americans are becoming more open to something different and products from around the world. We are getting better known after years of work and we are getting good sales,” he said.
ProChile is making a targeted effort to promote its products, and along with Agrosuper companies like Arauco, SQM and CMPC — forestry and chemical companies that all have Georgia operations — are gaining market share.
Along with food, the forestry industry is also front and center in ProChile’s efforts, and the office will be increasing its presence in various industry conventions and trade shows.
In addition, it recently sent an expert from Georgia to Chile to a forestry and wood export seminar in order to talk about the reactivation of the U.S. construction sector, a wood trade influx to the U.S., the potential for Chilean exports and other topics.
With economic growth forecast to reach almost 3 percent in 2015, Mr. Garafulic’s message is that more American companies should export to Chile.
“We are encouraging more investment and tourism in Chile,” he says. He also points out that as Chile continues to prosper it will need more companies coming in to provide infrastructure support as well as technology.
Mr. Arancibia points out that because of its rich mining industry as well as its strong agricultural heritage, American companies that “provide solutions and services for those areas would be successful.”