By Greg Sullivan, USGC International Intern, Panama City, Panama.
The conference, sponsored and organized by the USGC, was a flagship program for the Panama office as our staff continues to create and drive demand for American coarse grains and co-products. This particular event focused primarily on Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) for which nearly 40% of the global market for DDGS was represented by the attendees. Speakers addressed topics related to the production and value of U.S. corn ethanol, corn gluten feed and meal, and DDGS as well as the logistical and supply chain advantages employed by U.S. companies in sourcing and delivering these products to consumers around the world. While the speech topics provided interesting insight into the current and future projects of the markets for the respective products, the real value of the conference for the participants was derived from the networking opportunities. One such opportunity, pictured above, was a participant reception that was held on the final night of the conference. While the future economic impacts of this conference will not be known for some time, having more than 110 participants on hand and interacting with one another is an excellent sign and strongly supports an optimistic outlook.
Outside of the employment role, Panamanian life has been pleasant. I have been fortunate enough to visit some of the more scenic areas of the country, one of which has been pictured below. This picture was taken off the northern coast of Panama on a remote island in the San Blas island chain. Getting to and from the island can be a bit tricky due to it only recently becoming a destination location. There is a 40 km stretch of semi-paved road through a mountainous jungle that is notorious for causing foreigners to suffer from motion sickness. Once you reach the port and after having paid your visiting tariffs and fees to the indigenous tribe that owns the islands, you have to take a 30-minute skiff ride to the island. And if that isn’t enough to whet your adventure whistle, you also have to deal with vehicle and passport inspections due to the proximity of the islands to Colombia and the potential for drug trafficking in the area. Patience and a strong stomach would suit you well, but in the end it is well worth the effort.