Latin America proposes sustainable agriculture plan

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    [captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”left” captiontext=”More innovation is required to meet the challenges that climate change imposes on agriculture and to ensure that agricultural practices respect the natural balance that will ensure our survival as a society.”]San Jose, Costa Rica, October 21 (ECLAC/FAO/IICA). Despite the current context of volatility and high food prices, in the long term, the agricultural sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) will be able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by having available land – albeit concentrated in a few countries- a relative abundance of water, biodiversity and well-educated human resources.

    But this will require more than simply increasing the area under cultivation. It will also be necessary to bridge the gaps in technology and production in the region, in order to significantly increase yields and food production, according to ECLAC, FAO and IICA.

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    These three institutions presented a joint report entitled “The Outlook for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Americas: A perspective on Latin America and the Caribbean 2011-2012”to the Ministers of Agriculture of the Americas, at a meeting held on October 21 in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    The Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Victor M. Villalobos, pointed out that “the recommendations contained in the report coincide with the discussions held here by the ministers, which focus on the need to invest in agriculture in order to make agriculture the driving force of development.”

    According to Jose Graziano da Silva, Regional Representative and Director General-elect of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “The region must take advantage of high food prices to distribute the rewards of growth more equitably, encouraging production by those engaged in family agriculture and facilitating their access to natural and financial resources and markets.”

    In the view of the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, more innovation is required to meet the challenges that climate change imposes on agriculture and to ensure that agricultural practices respect the natural balance that will ensure our survival as a society.” Bárcena also emphasized that, “innovation is fundamental for moving toward a low carbon agriculture.”

    Varied outlook

    [captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”right” captiontext=”Policies are still needed to ensure improved performance in agriculture in the long term, especially those that promote innovation and adaptation to climate change.”]Agriculture. Agricultural production in LAC was higher in 2010 than in 2009, with cereals performing best, up more than 7% over 2009. However, growth was not uniform throughout the region. While agriculture in the Southern Cone, which exports grains and oilseeds, grew at more than 4.5%, the rate in the other sub-regions of LAC did not exceed 2.5%.

    According to the report, volatility and high food prices will continue in the short and medium terms.

    In 2011, agricultural production is expected to increase thanks to the favorable outlook for the prices of the major agricultural commodities. However, policies are still needed to ensure improved performance in agriculture in the long term, especially those that promote innovation and adaptation to climate change.

    The livestock, fishing and forestry sectors also performed well in 2010, and their future outlook is bright. In the livestock sector, consumption and production both increased. Rapid population growth and rising incomes in developing countries offer great opportunities in future for this sector, since demand for products of animal origin will grow more than that for any other type of food. Despite significant advances, the region still faces the challenge of improving efficiency and making livestock farming more environmentally sustainable.

    In the fisheries sector, aquaculture is growing in importance, while extractive fishing is declining due to overfishing and is no longer sustainable. The search for a balance between increased production and conservation of resources has been become critical in fishing, especially as diseases are threatening fish cultivation. The growth in demand from Asia will provide an important incentive to increase production.

    In the forestry sector, the production and trade of forest products is on the rise, the loss of forest cover has slowed and greater emphasis is being placed on mechanisms that pay rural communities for environmental services.

    In terms of rural well-being, the report states that the impact of the crisis was less than expected in the region. In 2009, poverty in the region grew by only 0.1 percentage points and indigence by only 0.4 percentage points, with a slightly higher increase in rural than in urban areas. It also notes that changes in the pattern of rural poverty were closely related to the development of the agricultural sector and the economy in general, concluding that poverty grew only slightly as a result of social assistance programs and conditional cash transfers in most countries of the region.

    In the political-institutional realm, the document considers the sectoral and social policies adopted by countries to promote national production, protect consumers and producers, especially the most vulnerable, and maintain the stability of prices. It concludes that most of these policies were defensive and short-term in nature. The report also examines the subregional policies adopted in the context of the integration processes, and recommends the modernization of the institutional framework and the adoption of long-term policies.

    The representatives of the three institutions reaffirmed the commitment of their organizations to continue working together to produce relevant and timely information for decision makers in the agricultural sector, and in general for all those with an interest in agriculture and rural development in the region.

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