Promoting Agricultural Exports to Latin America

ID-81-05: Published: Dec 11, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1980.

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The Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) uses relatively little of its resources to promote agricultural exports to Latin America. Additional promotion efforts could assist in tapping the potential of the market.

GAO found that FAS has promoted exports to Latin America primarily through: (1) market development activities carried out by service organizations; (2) periodic FAS-sponsored activities, such as trade fairs, product displays, and sales team visits; and (3) Commodity Credit Corporation and Public Law 480 financing assistance in selected countries. Despite market limitations, export opportunities exist in Latin America. To assure optimal use of export promotion resources, FAS should be able to compare export opportunities in one country or geographical region, such as Latin America, with opportunities in other world markets. Presently, it does not allocate its resources this way. Instead, FAS relies heavily on private trade organizations and its judgments, based on past export performance, to decide where and how FAS export promotion resources will be used without any assurance that Latin American markets have been adequately considered. Recognizing the need for a more systematic approach to guide marketing resource allocation, FAS has initiated a strategic planning process. However, FAS needs to strengthen its resource allocation system to assure that export markets in Latin America and elsewhere are receiving promotional attention commensurate with export sales opportunities. The strategic planning process, while a step in the right direction, needs to be accelerated.

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