As Colombia seeks to solidify its role as a regional exporter, local holding companies are seizing opportunities to expand.

Eduardo Pacheco Cortés
Grupo Colpatria
Carlos E. Piedrahita
Grupo Nutresa
Claudia Hoyos
General Manager
Marca País Colombia

What is your outlook for the coffee and chocolate sectors?

CARLOS E. PIEDRAHÍTA A. The consumption of coffee in Colombia has only grown 2% or 3% in volume terms. The problem is that the Colombian crop has decreased in size. We have entered a deficit regarding local coffee producers, and we are forced to import coffee from other countries. The Peruvian bean is the closest to Colombian tastes, so we import most of our coffee from Peru. It is a high-quality Arabica coffee, very similar to Colombian. In a blend, it keeps the same profile as Colombian coffee. Even other Colombian producers are importing from different countries. This is disappointing because Colombia used to produce nearly 13 million bags, and now we are down to 7 million. There are many commitments to export coffee, and this has created a shortfall from the producers.

How has the bank's product portfolio evolved over the past five years?

EDUARDO PACHECO CORTÉS We had a crisis at the turn of the century, and at that time Colpatria had 75% of its business in mortgages. What we learned from that was that we have to be much more diversified. The dynamics of consumer credit are very good. Even though we are a mid-sized bank in the country, we are the largest issuer of credit cards. We have been working with credit cards for many years, and it is the jewel in our crown. That has been the part of the business, which has grown the most.

How do you see Nutresa evolving over the next decade?

CP If I look 10 years in the past, Nutresa was much more domestic and had a small footprint in other countries. In the last decade, we have expanded a lot, and I expect we will continue to expand in other parts of the world over the next decade as well. Our international sales are close to 30% of our total sales at the moment, and we hope to increase this number to around 50%. We are also committed to sustainable development. Nutresa is one of the nine food producers in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and its vision includes geographic expansion with a balance between the social and environmental dimensions. We will be a global company, but a sustainable one, and hopefully one with a carbon-neutral footprint.

Do you have any further plans to expand abroad?

EPC We are in Mexico and Peru already. We have been in Mexico for almost 10 years, and we are planning to expand into two other cities. Our short-term strategy is to move into Puebla and diversify into other cities. Peru has been a different experience because we are in the housing sector, which is why we went to Peru. We do housing in Mexico too, but in Peru it is different because we also do some retail construction. We were part of a group that won a major contract that brings all the minerals in from the mountains to Lima. Peru has become a much more amplified portfolio than what we have in Mexico, and we expect that to continue. I do not see Colombian local banks being sold to foreigners in the near future. In the next five to 10 years, 7%-8% of the Colombian banking sector is going to be run by Colombians. BBVA is the biggest foreign bank here, but it should be Colombian run. We grew at a rate of 5% in the second quarter, and it is a reasonable rate compared to the rest of the world. However, we need to grow at rates of 8%-10%. The biggest challenge of Colombia is for people to realize that we are all equal. It is a question of education. It is easy to say, but not easy to do.