Chile to become 'agricultural power', says president Piñera

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Chile to become 'agricultural power', says president Piñera

Chilean president Sebastián Piñera has announced a series of measures to be taken by the government to boost Chile's position as an "agricultural power".

In his May 21 address, Piñera said his goal was to transform Chile into one of the world's top 10 exporters of healthy and safe food.

Piñera highlighted that the agriculture and forestry sector grew by 11% last year, almost doubling the rate of the country's economic growth, while he also highlighted several commitments relating to agriculture.

"We are strengthening the Anti-Distortion Commission, we issued a new decree of safeguards for cracked corn, and we created a prosecutor specialized in agriculture in the National Economic Prosecutor," he said.

Piñera said this would "ensure fair competition with foreign producers, more transparent markets and more competitive on the domestic front, so that our agricultural producers receive a fair price for what they plant, growth and harvest from the earth."

He said 180,000 small growers were receiving subsidies, training and technical assistance through the Institute of Agricultural Development, representing a 40% increase on the figure registered two years ago.

He said a lack of investment and planning, the increase in consumption and global warming all serve to make Chile more vulnerable in drought periods.

Piñera stressed that water and infrastructure were "fundamental resources for future development and the quality of life of Chileans, that we have to learn to produce and protect better".

He pointed out 108 suburbs in the country were in a state of agricultural emergency after three years of drought, with short and long term solutions needed for water infrastructure.

"That points to the National Water Resources Strategy for the next two decades that we are developing. To avoid that 85% of the water that passes through our rivers is lost in the sea, our dam plan includes 15 large projects.

He highlighted that dams had already been delivered in Ancoa, Maule and El Bato, Coquimbo, while the construction of the Chacrillas dam had begun in the Valparaiso region.

The president announced three more dam projects would start soon in Arica, Paranicota in Coquimbo, and Bio Bio.

"This strategy will double our capacity for water storage, ensuring a normal supply in the future.

"Additionally, we are investing heavily in mechanized irrigation systems, repairing and waterproofing irrigation channels, have implemented a cloud seeding program, developed innovative plans to filter rainwater into aquifers in deficit, and to build water desalinization plants in the north of Chile."

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