Good luck with the decalogue, minister, but it failed …

Minister, please take a look at the court line from a couple of months ago and don’t waste too much time on Food Sovereignty, which sounds great but has no destination. Don’t waste too much time in the Top 10 and Top 20 charts either. They are just economic irritants to our neighbors and, honestly, no one catches us with them outside of Chile.

I’m sorry, but I can’t stop commenting on what the Minister of Agriculture, Esteban Valenzuela, called the “Decalogue for green agriculture”, published a few days ago. I disagree with some aspects of his decalogue and on a couple of issues I think the minister has a “bad mistake”.

However, I share some of the objectives outlined by Minister Valenzuela in his decalogue, such as, for example, the #one (“Responsible use of water”). I also have no difficulty with the lens #Two (“strengthening science networks and applied data for innovation”), and I also share the # 5 (“Increase the percentage of decentralized spending for rural development”), although I don’t know if the figures he proposes are enough to balance the balance. Likewise, I find it difficult to object to the goal # 8 to “improve the average wage in agricultural regions by 2026”. However, it will not be easy to wait another four years.

Maybe I’m not paying due attention, but I think the minister has gotten confused with some aspects of his decalogue. Let’s start with him # 3, of “sovereignty and food security … to recover by 2026 the production of cereals, meat and milk that has been lost, according to the Census of Agriculture”. It is possible that part of the decline in domestic production of some products is due to a lack of government incentives and support, but it appears to have been excluded from the # 3 the effect of the opening of the market resulting from the treaties with Mercosur, Canada, the United States and the European Union. Do you remember the price ranges, Minister? It was a difficult negotiation we had with all of them, and now we have to do it go all the way and face the challenge of competing with large international producers in open and imperfect markets. After all, it was we who pushed for the opening of the markets.

It is true that we are now struggling as the trading infrastructure has collapsed in many countries, markets are decoupling and exporting countries are having trouble meeting their commitments. So, we may actually have problems accessing inputs, but fundamentally, if we produce fewer cereals it is because we are not competitive in a poorly regulated market.

However, we can competitively produce wheat and grain seeds for export. And with dairy products, beyond the complexities of the Chilean industry, something similar happens. The surpluses of large international dairy producers should be competitively exported to Chile. Will we impose restrictions? And what do we do with the meats? We are major exporters of poultry and pork, and sometimes beef and even lamb (over $ 1,430 million in 2021). But in 2021, we also imported more than $ 2.353 million worth of meat. Do we ban exports and control imports? It looks difficult. The international price of meat rises and we immediately become vigilant for possible exports. Oh, and let’s not forget the effect of live cattle exports to China (over $ 32 million in 2021). complex landscape.

With the degree of commercial openness already achieved, there is not much room for maneuver to move forward in achieving the goal # 3. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it. However, we cannot predict what will happen in the years following the pandemic and the armed conflict in Ukraine, how trade will be reorganized and whether deglobalization will continue to recede creating new spaces for greater national autonomy or – on the contrary – if some form of regionalised deglobalizationand / or we have decided to follow the path of regional integration, which is my preference.

Also, I’m not sure I fully understand Goal No. 4 to “become among the top 10 in fruit and wines by 2030 and enter the top 20 in vegetables, agro-industrial products and crafts”. We are talking about classification of exporters? If so, it would appear that we are restoring the motto of “Chile Power Food” and the obsession with always confronting our neighbors. Furthermore, the postulate questions what was mentioned more than once by candidate Boric in his program: the need to reformulate the extractivist model of export development and to approach rural / agricultural work with a global vision.

The obsessive search to be the “Top 1” in this or that is what led us to propose the slogan “Chile Power Food”, to be the woolen neighborhood, despite being a small town with relatively limited natural resources. And we pushed them to the limit. Does anyone doubt it? I have more than one example, since I was born and raised where -I understood- invention fruit export business to the United States.

I have always wondered why the promotion of our fruit has not emphasized environmental protection, or why it is the tastiest, healthiest or most hygienic fruit, or why we have not sufficiently highlighted and valued the work of rural women in fruit growing Chilean. We followed the path of most mussels it is bigger.

It is true that the # 4 He also adds that he is committed to “positioning Chile as an example of exporting agricultural products with added value and craftsmanship, environmental traceability and healthy food”. beyond the Russian salad resulting from all these problems, I share and support the need emphasize the export of value-added agricultural products. But, please, we approve the proposals. Trade agreements have already contributed to the opening of new markets for these products and we have increased exports. This adds some value. Now, the real dilemma is how to export these products so that they reach the final consumer directly and not just step up production to continue increasing wholesale exports. But these proposals require profound changes in the institutional framework to support exports, especially for SMEs.

I apologize again, but it is not even clear to me what is meant by “entering the top 20 of vegetables, agro-industrial products and crafts”. We must assume that we are talking exports Made of vegetables. If so, any particular product? Do we include all vegetables here or just vegetables? And what markets do we have in mind? In some cases (the tomato, for example) we get tired of long negotiations with the USA and – after gaining entry – we do not squeezed the juice to the market that we managed to open after several years of work. Very difficult to compete with Mexico in the United States. Furthermore, we cannot forget that Peru is already ahead of us, for example, in the exports of peppers, paprika and asparagus, in addition to Central America, which also exports to the United States. I think we are late. And I don’t want to be too much cathete, but do we have the phytosanitary authorizations to do it? It’s a huge job and I’m not sure it’s a priority and profitable for anyone right now.

I would like to conclude very briefly with two questions which – unfortunately – do not appear in the minister’s decalogue. Surprise, surprise and surprise, again. The first, the fate of rural SMEs and peasant family farming. I could cite several sources to remind you that the rural world was not only crucial to the victory of the candidate in the second round, but also that both SMEs and peasant family farming are widely present in his program (Rural development policy and forestry and agricultural economics, page 40 of the program). Big question: what will happen with all of this?

Finally, I would like to remind the Minister that, without substantial changes in the institutional framework of the Ministry of Agriculture, of some of its Services and in the institutional framework of export support for SMEs (especially rural ones), his proposals run the risk of remaining only at the level of proposals. We need to quickly rebuild that institutional framework which is difficult to understand, access and use.

Minister please look in court a couple of months ago and don’t waste too much time with Food Sovereignty, that sounds super good, but has no destination. Don’t waste too much time in the Top 10 and Top 20 charts. They are just economic irritants to our neighbors and, honestly, nobody likes us. “fishing”With the one outside Chile.

Edoardo Santos

PhD from the University of Sussex. Expert in commercial negotiations and agricultural trade.