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Challenges to Increase Agribusiness Competitiveness in the Region*
During the last five years I have had the opportunity to interact with a large number of small and large producers, managers, entrepreneurs, market agents and government officials, which work to increase agribusiness competitiveness in the hemisphere. Through all of them I learned of their love and commitment to agriculture and the environment and of their efforts to provide society with competitive and wholesome products. I have also learned about their concerns, failures, worries and challenges; and to my surprise I have found that all of them have similar dreams and expectations for a better life.
Today, nobody denies the important role that agriculture and its related business, play in the welfare of the society, the environment, and its pivotal role in the economy, when all its vertical and horizontal linkages are accounted. Despite of this importance, it is also clear that the agribusiness community of the hemisphere faces serious issues to remain competitive, and finding the causes that affect this competitiveness is the first step for the development of strategies to secure sustainable growth. Analyzing success stories will provide key elements to which this success can be replicated and expanded.
It is rather amazing that at the beginning of the XXI Century, the agribusinesses of the hemisphere see their competitiveness affected by old critical issues that remain unsolved. The lack of adequate policies and institutions, clear rules for land ownership, larceny, inadequate research and development programs and insufficient investment are among the most common and more extended. This competitiveness, however, is also affected by more recent problems and agribusinesses face new challenges as result of the current process of globalization and the new economic rules. Among the most modern issues affecting the competitiveness of agribusiness are shifts in the demographics of the population currently devoted to agriculture, the process of market integration, issues related to market access (particularly related to export subsidies and domestic support policies), and to the need to comply with all the international agreements signed by the countries in the hemisphere. Finally, competitiveness of our agribusiness system is also affected by the lack of entrepreneurial spirit in many of the smallholder farmers who conform the vast majority of the producers in the hemisphere. The challenge here is how to install and expand the spirit needed to create true agro-entrepreneurs.
The future present us with new challenges and our responsiveness to will, without a doubt, determine the success and independence of each one of our countries. In my opinion, some of the challenges we will need to face are:
To provide a constant supply of wholesome food and fiber to a continuously growing population in the face of reduced natural resources and increased environmental risks.
To develop national strategies for food security in view of the increased demand for traditional agricultural products by other industries (e.g. energy) that were traditionally used as basic food staples in many of our countries.
To continue working for the full implementation of the Doha Development round. In particularly continue to emphasize the total elimination of trade distorting support measurements for agriculture in the highly developed countries and the implementation of corresponding adjustments in developing countries.
Create effective cooperation and interchange networks to link small producers and entrepreneurs to the agri-food chain and markets.
Make new technologies, such a biotechnology and nanotechnology, available for extensive use at the root of agriculture.
Assuring adequate food supply and agribusiness competitiveness in the hemisphere will not longer be only responsibility of the agricultural specialists, but will require multidisciplinary and multisectorial interventions.
Director Agribusiness Competitiveness
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA)
5757 Blue Lagoon Dr., Suite 200
Miami, FL, 33126
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.
Two questions that can be used to further the discussion on how to assure the agribusiness competitiveness in the hemisphere are: