June 1, 2015

International Internship in Panama

By Greg Sullivan, USGC International Intern, Panama City, Panama.

Hola from Panamá! My name is Greg Sullivan and I am currently finishing up a Masters degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Agribusiness at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In order to further my educational pursuits and capitalize on previous learning I found it pertinent to seek out an opportunity abroad in order to gain a better understanding of the global nature and reach of American agriculture. Fortunately, the Nebraska Corn Board has assisted me in this effort by selecting me to represent you and the rest of the Nebraska corn producers at the U.S. Grains Council’s regional headquarters here in Panamá City.

So far the work has consisted of getting up to speed on trends in regional markets and educating myself on the USGC strategies for the remainder of the 2015 marketing year. Nebraska producers should be delighted to hear that there is a strong drive to increase DDGS (among other grains/feed ingredients) usage in the region by educating marketers and business on the cost-effectiveness of their usage in feed rations, the quality of the ingredient, and the efficiency of the supply chain from the American producer to the regional consumer. These efforts will ultimately culminate in a USGC sponsored regional buyers conference to be held in Medellín, Colombia this July.

Outside of the office, adapting to life in Panamá has been relatively smooth and easy going. In fact, up to this point I can’t think of much that I don’t like about the country.  The language barrier is certainly an obstacle that needs to be overcome, but the occasional Spanish lesson and daily interaction with strangers should help knock it down fairly quickly. Most of the populace is bilingual to some extent in part due to the reliance of the economy on tourism and trade. The extent of that dual dependence helped create a Panamanian culture that is certainly an anomaly in the Latin American world. With a heavy concentration of businesses relating to international trade and the use/expansion of the Canal (a walkthrough of the expansion is pictured above) the country has become somewhat of a cultural melting pot. The Latin American culture is certainly prevalent, but it is not as overwhelming as it is in other Central and South American countries. This melting pot culture was summated perfectly by a recent volunteer opportunity in which I partook at a well-known local food establishment – Quesos Chela (which was recently featured on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods). The event (picture below) was organized to promote the arts and highlight child labor as an irresponsible business and humanitarian practice. And while the primary beneficiaries were indigenous Panamanian children, the volunteers hailed from Venezuelan, Colombian, Panamanian, Chinese-Panamanian, and American backgrounds. It was a perfect microcosm of my experience so far, a genuine experience that involved individuals from multiple backgrounds working together towards a common cause.

It has barely been two weeks, but the time here has flown by and has been nothing short of memorable. I can only imagine what the next few months have in store.

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