With its new State Agri-food Policy, Panama seeks to transform its economy to incorporate food production as a driving force for growth and development and to safeguard its future, Minister Salcedo claims
Brasilia, 1 March 2023 (IICA) – The State Agri-food Policy, which came into force in Panama in January, seeks to transform the agri-food economy, incorporating it along with trade and services to drive growth and development, safeguarding peace and security for the Panamanian people.
These were the words of Carlos Augusto Salcedo, the Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs of the President’s Office of Panama, who gave an interview on the Agro América program broadcast by the Brazilian TV channel AgroMais.
The State Agri-food Policy was drafted after a process of analysis and participatory dialogue with all the sector’s public and private stakeholders over the course of two years, with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) playing an important role.
Panama’s National Assembly enacted the law in October 2022 and President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen ratified it in January 2023, in a public ceremony with IICA Director General Manuel Otero as a special guest.
The law makes national agricultural production a State priority, due to its central role in social, political and economic stability and as an instrument to ensure the human right to suitable food for the population.
Salcedo stressed in the television interview that this is the first law of its kind on the continent and that it was not imposed by any one political group, but rather comes in response to a longstanding demand from farmers. “We have given the sector a legal basis that will be a guarantee over time for it to do its work, regardless of the government at any given time”, he said.
He emphasized that the plan was developed “from the bottom up”, focusing on farmers by strengthening associativity, and on consumers.
The first step was a citizen consultation process, to hear from commercial producers, consumers, importers, traders, family farmers and indigenous peoples. “We were thus able to draw up a preliminary reference document, which was submitted to the highest level of Government, the Council of Ministers, for approval”, Salcedo said.
The law established a State Policy compliance council, made up of 29 members, of whom 21 are private sector and only 8 from the government. “This means that monitoring does not lie in the State but in society”, said Salcedo.
The Minister explained that the law, consisting of 91 articles, establishes the conditions for the technological transformation of agriculture, focusing on such areas as productivity, competitiveness, food sovereignty and legal security.
“IICA showed its willingness to help from the beginning. They agreed that the Policy had to focus on guaranteeing food sovereignty and security for the Panamanian people. With this in mind, we identified that it had to be inclusive, sustainable and territorial, and guarantee citizen participation and governance”, said Salcedo.
Trade on two oceans
During the interview, Salcedo commented that from the trade perspective, Panama is seeking to “make the most of our geographic position, which allows us to ship not only our production but also that of neighboring countries over both oceans. As a country, we are opening the door to form a food hub to export production not as a country, but as a block of countries to Atlantic and Pacific markets”.
The legislation also emphasizes the adaptation of the agricultural institutional framework to mitigate climate change and the use of technology to create resilience to extreme weather phenomena.
The plan will include an adaptation of the public agricultural institutional framework and will last for ten years. Its implementation will be monitored every year over a digital platform.
Projects and investments
Salcedo stated that there is a portfolio of projects to boost Panamanian agri-food production with investments of $1.24 billion dollars through multilateral finance bodies such as CAF-Latin America Development Bank and the Panamanian government.
The minister counselor explained that Panama is a country with 4.2 million inhabitants, over 75,500 square kilometers and a restricted agricultural area, which has decided to boost its food production, supporting family and indigenous farmers and commercial producers aiming for international markets.
“It’s a real change of mentality. It won’t be easy to transform the economic model of a country traditionally based on trade and services. We have to strengthen agri-food activity with research, technology and by adapting the institutional framework”, he said in the interview.
“Now the agriculture sector will know what direction it will have to take to gain productivity and competitiveness. And it will be protected, as it will know that farmers will not be abandoned tomorrow to give priority to imports”.
“We are convinced that this State Agri-food policy can be used as a reference for other Latin American countries and we are ready to work with those that have the same policy outlook”, he concluded.
Agro América is a program broadcast by the Brazilian TV channel AgroMais, of the media group Grupo Bandeirantes de Comunicação, produced in partnership with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The program comments on current affairs in the agriculture sector and rural life in IICA member countries, with a view to promoting an exchange of experiences and discussing challenges and opportunities for Latin America and the Caribbean in agricultural and rural development.
Institutional Communication Division.