South American countries unite towards agricultural goals
Santiago played host to the XXIII Regular Meeting of the Southern Agricultural Council (CAS) this week, where agricultural ministers, state secretaries and expert delegates from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay discussed the region’s pressing issues.
Key topics included trade relationships with China, foot-and-mouth disease, rural land ownership and strengthening the region’s position in international business.
Argentina’s secretary of agriculture Lorenzo Basso said the meeting was “very productive” involving a range of issues.
“We arrived at two declarations being signed – one about foot-and-mouth disease and the other linked to CAS strategies in the approaches emerging with China concerning technical cooperation,” he said.
In the first statement, involving the disease and the strengthening of ‘health rings’, the ministers declared they would continue with Mercosur health plans to make the region FMD-free and work in line with the vision of the World Organisation for Animal Health.
The second statement was about the global cooperation prospects between the CAS region and China, with the ministers pledging to help make the Asia-Pacific rim the most dynamic region in the world economy, along with regional strategies to identify, promote and seize the opportunites arising from the new international situation.
“We are convinced that working in cooperation between our countries will mean more growth opportunities for the agricultural and food sector, but more importantly, cooperation is the key that opens the door of development for our countries,” said Chilean agricultural minister Luis Mayol.
The CAS representatives also agreed to evaluate proposals made by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao during a recent South American tour, through the establishment of a CAS working group, with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s (IICA).
The CAS countries account for 25-30% of China’s food imports. Basso believes China’s demand for products will increase over the next 20 years.
“It is a challenge that must be met with technology to address this part of the world – how are we going to do it and what agreement we can arrive upon as a bloc,” said Basso.
“At the moment each one of these countries has their own particular strategy with China.”
The issue of price volatility also arose at the meeting, with agriculture in a historic moment where it is a key element of all government agendas.
“All of our countries have a common goal to empower ourselves as secure suppliers of food in the world. We believe we have a great opportunity,” said Mayol.
“But we also know that everyone has different situations and we have shared those experiences with the aim of strengthening them.”