Colombia seeks to double agricultural land in five years
The Colombian Government has set an ambitious goal to double the country's agricultural land in half a decade, starting from 2015.
The new target would take the country's agricultural land to two million hectares, focused on the fruit and vegetable, forestry, cacao, palm oil, rubber, maize and soybean sectors.
The pitch seeks to make the most of free trade agreements (FTA) signed with countries around the world, particularly the United States.
A release from Colombia's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MinAgricultura), highlighted that in the 20 months since the FTA was signed with the superpower, agricultural exports - with the exclusion of coffee, flowers and bananas - had risen 14.3%.
"We can affirm that the FTA with the United States is a gigantic opportunity for rural Colombia and not a threat," said Minister for Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Santiago Rojas.
"Colombia is called upon to be a great supplier of foods internationally, and our commercial integration in the world is a perfect platform to be able to achieve that."
However, it is a difficult task to determine ownership on thousands of farms that were taken over and held by paramilitary groups for decades. Agriculture Minister Rubén Darío Lizarralde added that delays in legislation proved a challenge as well, especially when it came to land registration and subdividing lots for heirs.
Another challenge will be to achieve balanced trade with Pacific Alliance countries, Mexico, Chile and Peru, with which Colombia currently has a trade deficit of 50%.
As an anecdote, Lizzarralde mentioned an exploratory mission from South Korea had shown interest in Colombia's native potatoes during an informal visit.
"This should give us cause to view new opportunities. Of course, the jump toward modern agriculture leads to dignity for human beings, in that we organize business, identify soil suitability and markets, and that we strengthen markets.
"In this sense, ICA (Colombian Agricultural Institute) and Invima (National Institute of Food and Drug Monitoring) will have to be renewed and strengthened, because we are not going to face challenges with institutions that are not prepared enough to face those challenges."