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Trade Information Bulletin No. 342
Supplement to Commerce Reports
Price, 10 cents
The Caribbean group, comprising the West Indies, Central America, Venezuela, and the Caribbean section of Colombia, is as much a distinctive trade unit for the American manufacturer as Canada or Australia. This region or group of countries, while contiguous to the other countries of South America, has very little direct contact with them because of the fact that most of the established lines of water transport treat the Caribbean area as a separate unit. Steamers bound for Brazil and the River Plate do not enter the Caribbean, and vessels routed to the Caribbean rarely go farther south than the Venezuelan ports before returning to the United States or Europe. A commercial traveler covering Latin America will, of course, visit the Caribbean territory as well as the rest of South America, but it will mean a break in his journey and a transfer from one transportation system or group of steamship lines to another. Freight shipments from eastern and southern States to this territory in practically every instance are made by vessels routed only to Caribbean ports. The growing trade of the Caribbean area with the Pacific ports of the United States is by way of Colon in the Canal Zone as a port of transshipment, owing to the fact that there are as yet no direct lines from the west coast to the Caribbean.
The importance of the Caribbean countries is shown by our trade with them during 1924, which amounted to $871,938,946, of which $501,906,709 represented imports from and $370,032,237 exports to them. In order of importance, Cuba ranks first, Porto Rico second, Colombia third, and the Central American group fourth. • In 1923 our exports to Colombia amounted to approximately $23,000,000, compared with exports from our leading competitors--Great Britain, Germany, and France of $12,500,000, $4,000,000, and $2,000,000, respectively. In the last pre-war year, 1913, our exports amounted to only $8,000,000, being exceeded by those of Great Britain by approximately $500,000. In this year France fur. nished goods valued at $4,500,000, while German exports to Colombia were negligible.
This pamphlet, the second of the series covering Caribbean markets, deals with our exports to Colombia, the foreign competition encountered, the basis of the market, routing of a commercial traveler through the country, and other information of a general character that is believed to be of interest to anyone exporting to Colombia. Further information on any specific points may be had by applying to the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce at Washington or to any of its district and cooperative offices throughout the United States.
JULIUS KLEIN, Director Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce. APRIL, 1925.
CARIBBEAN MARKETS FOR AMERICAN GOODS
Colombia is a country which is primarily agricultural, exporting farm products and importing manufactured articles. Manufacturing is still unimportant, though showing steady development from year to year. While this has a tendency to diminish the market for certain manufactured articles, it creates a market for such products as shoe leather, shoe findings, shoe machinery, cotton yarns, textilemill machinery, flour and gristmill machinery, and sugar-mill machinery. These growing industries, of course, tend to increase the general prosperity of the community, with a corresponding increase in purchasing power.
The purchasing power of a large proportion of the people is not
the wide range of articles purchased by the average American. For example, the general public in Colombia has very little interest in the purchase of automobiles, auto accessories, radio outfits, and ready-made clothing; nor does the Colombian housewife scan the daily papers for bargains in household and kitchen ware, house furnishings, breakfast foods, canned goods, millinery, and the endless articles that make up the daily purchases of the American household. The average Colombian contents himself with the purchase of cotton cloth and other textiles for making clothes in the home or by the local tailor; with staple foodstuffs, looking upon canned and imported foodstuffs as in the nature of luxuries for special occasions; and with small hardware, household ware, and a limited amount of agricultural machinery. The wealthy Colombian, of course, is in the market for a much wider range of articles and of a higher grade or quality, his needs and demands being on a parity with those of the same class of people in the United States.
BASIS OF THE MARKET
Coffee might be called the barometer of business in Colombia. Upon this crop almost entirely is founded the economic structure of the country. Favorable prices for coffee and a good crop are quickly reflected by an active market and an increase of imports. The production of coffee has increased steadily during recent years. In 1913 coffee exports from Colombia were valued at $13,369,768, while in 1924 it is estimated that these exports were worth $54,000,000, a more than fourfold increase in 12 years, although part of this was due to increased prices. The United States takes from 75 to 90 per cent of all coffee exported from Colombia, that country in
1924 furnishing 17.4 per cent of our coffee imports. Other important exports from Colombia are gold, platinum, bananas, and hides, but none of these in themselves have very much effect upon general economic conditions.
United States is Colombia's best customer, and unlike Brazil, the other coffee-producing country, it reciprocates by buying a large proportion of its imports in this country. In 1923 Colombia made a little more than 45 per cent of all her foreign purchases in United States markets.
The coffee crop is marketed throughout the year, so that there is no marked seasonal purchasing power, although Colombian imports from the United States are heaviest during the last quarter of the year.
The coffee crop during 1924 was sold at very favorable prices: there are several important construction projects under way; little unemployment exists; and the general outlook for business during the next few years in Colombia is good.
FOREIGN COMPETITION Our chief competitor in the Colombian market is Great Britain, which in 1913 supplied 30 per cent of all Colombian imports, as compared with 23 per cent supplied by the United States. This situation, however, was somewhat changed in 1923, when the United States furnished 45.3 per cent of the Colombian imports and Great Britain 27 per cent. În cotton and woolen textiles, which are probably the most important imports of Colombia, British competition is very keen. The British manufacturers dominate in calicoes, ging. hams, lawns, and bleached goods, while the United States holds the market in heavy cotton textiles, such as ducks, denims, drills, and grey goods. In woolens, especially of the better grades, the British hold the field, the American manufacturers being unable to compete to any great extent in this line. The British are said to cover the textile market better than American manufacturers. British competition is also very active in the market for railway equipment, locomotives, iron and steel, construction machinery, and small cut
Germany prior to the World War sold very little in Colombia, but in 1923 supplied 8 per cent of the country's imports, ranking next to Great Britain in the import trade. The chief lines of German competition are light hardware, household enamel ware, window and door fittings, and novelties.
France furnished only 4 per cent of the Colombian imports during 1923, supplying the market for high-grade cosmetics and toilet powders almost to the exclusion of all other countries. French toilet preparations are well and favorably known because of their attractive containers and advertising devices, as well as their good quality. However, American rouge, lipsticks, and tooth paste dominate the market for these toilet articles, France also leads in the sale of women's gowns and underwear.
Belgian competition has been keen during the past few years in supplying rails and steel products. The competition with Japan in the Colombian market has not developed as anticipated and is relatively unimportant. Spain supplies about 2 per cent of Colombia's imports, made up chiefly of foodstuffs.
The following table shows the percentage of Colombian imports furnished by the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany for the years 1913, 1919, 1921, and 1923:
PROPORTION OF COLOMBIAN IMPORTS FURNISHED BY LEADING ('OÇXTRIES
Exports from the United States to Colombia have shown a steady and consistent increase. In 1913 they were valued at $7,647,165, while in 1924 the amount was $28,671,858, an almost fourfold increase. Though our exports to Colombia in 1924 were larger than for any preceding year except 1920, the year 1924 is not regarded as abnormal, but as a good year, with every indication that 1925 will be equally as good if not better. Our trade with Colombia has assumed new and permanently higher levels during the last few years, and our market there will increase as the country develops and progresses. Chief among our exports to Colombia are textiles foodstuffs, machinery, and hardware.
Cotton textiles constitute our most important export to Colombia. During 1924 the United States exported to that country about 32,000,000 square yards of cotton goods, or a monthly average of 2,666,000 square yards. Cotton cloth accounts for the greater part of these exports, the principal items for 1924 being 10,787,630 square yards of prints, 10,143,865 square yards of unbleached cotton, 5,011,866 square yards of yarn-dyed goods, 4,423,129 square yards of piecedyed, and 1,545,213 square yards of bleached cotton. Our exports to Colombia of cotton duck during 1924 amounted to about 400,000 square yards, the greater part of which was unbleached.
Our exports of knit goods to this market are also of importance. In 1924 shipments of cotton hosiery to Colombia averaged 13,500 dozen pairs a month, while exports of underwear averaged 1,200 dozen a month.
The foregoing illustrates the position of the United States in this market, as these imports comprise a large percentage of the total Colombian importation along these lines. The British practically dominate the market for calicoes, ginghams, lawns, and bleached goods, while the preference is for American blankets, brown cottons, cottonade and coverts, ducks, denims, drills, flannels, grey goods, hosiery, khaki, sheets, ticking, and yarns.
The local textile mills in Colombia supply a large part of the demand for cheap, coarse cotton goods, and these mills look to the United States for yarns. Our exports of cotton yarns to Colombia in 1924 were about 1,000,000 pounds.
The British practically dominate the market for woolen textiles.
The Colombian market for textiles is pretty steady throughout the year, but exports from the United States in these items are heavi. est in July and August and during the last three months of the year. The best results in this market can be obtained through traveling salesmen, and the spring months, March to May, are considered the best season for securing orders for these products. bolt of from 20 to 25 yards for prints and dress goods is popular in Colombia, as bolts of this length will give an even number of cuts for dresses without leaving any remnants to be disposed of. In invoicing a shipment of textiles care should be taken to state the length of or number of yards in each bolt, not merely the sum total of yards of any given kind of goods, as this will facilitate the handling of the goods by the importer.
Exports of bread, biscuits, and crackers, unsweetened, to this market show an average of about 50,000 pounds a month during 1924. Our exports of wheat and flour to Colombia are not large, er ports of the former having an average of 11,000 bushels and the latter an average of about 4,500 barrels a month during 1924. As a result of expensive transportation, the interior of Colombia imports rert little wheat or flour and is almost self-supporting along these lines The coastal towns of Cartagena and Barranquilla import practically all the wheat and flour consumed in that region. Here Canadian competition is strong.
DRUGS AND CHEMICALS
Drugs and chemicals are two quite important items in our exports to Colombia, amounting to $1,000,000 in 1924. American drugs of all kinds are favorably known and there is a considerable market for antitoxins and proprietary medicines. No detailed figures are available showing our exports of medicines, but the total value of pharmaceutical preparations sent to this market in 1924 was $786,809, showing a substantial increase over the preceding year. Exports of chemicals to Colombia from the United States during 1924 were valued at about $200,000, the largest single item being that of caustic soda.
A detailed survey of our exports of foodstuffs to Colombia month by month during 1924 shows that the heaviest movement of these is during the last three months of the year. The total amount of such exports during the year was about 9,000,000 pounds, a monthly average of 750,000 pounds. The largest single item was lard, with a monthly average of 500,000 pounds. Lard compounds are apparently not so popular in Colombia, as exports of this article averaged only about 4,000 pounds a month.
Esports of bacon, hams, canned meats, and sausages showed a monthly average of 15,000 pounds, with bacon and hams accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total. Exports of salmon averaged 16,000 pounds a month and those of sardines 18,000 pounds.
Condensed and evaporated milk are important items, these come bined having a monthly export average of 40,000 pounds. Exports of milk powder to this market are not yet large, the monthly average for 1924 being about 2,700 pounds, though this is almost double