Latin American and Caribbean agriculture is growing despite a challenging economic climate
Cancun, 22 October 2015 (IICA). Agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has developed within a challenging macroeconomic context; however, thanks to increases in productivity, it has managed to grow more than the other sectors of the economy in recent years.
That is the conclusion of the fourth edition of the document “Outlook for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Americas 2015-2016: A Perspective on Latin America and the Caribbean,” prepared jointly by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The slowdown in Europe and some of the emerging economies has led to a decline in world demand. Coupled with the fall in international prices of oil and raw materials, this will affect global economic growth, which is expected to be only 3.5% in 2015. Growth in LAC is also expected to contract by 0.3%, the lowest level since the 2009 crisis.
Within that challenging panorama, however, Latin American and Caribbean agriculture is growing faster than the economy as a whole.
The report was presented today on the Riviera Maya, Mexico, during the 18th meeting of the Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA), held under the aegis of the Meeting of Ministers of Agriculture of the Americas 2015.
The FAO’s Alejandro Flores presented a summary of the trends in, and prospects for, the crop, livestock, forestry, and fisheries and aquaculture subsectors in the Americas, with emphasis on LAC.
In his view, the production and dissemination of this material is just one example of any number of joint actions that could be undertaken on behalf of the societies that these institutions serve.
ECLAC’s Adrian Rodríguez then presented the main trends in relation to social issues such as rural well-being, gender, poverty, income equality and rural youth, and the institutional framework for agriculture in LAC.
“Countries in the region are designing similar policies to address issues like productivity and competitiveness, the promotion of equity and higher incomes for poor producers, and the sustainability of natural resources and climate change. There are also important innovations in the region, such as programs for low-carbon agriculture, the development of the institutional framework to address climate change and the establishment of technical working groups at the regional level,” he explained.
Agriculture is growing in the region, albeit with notable exceptions
According to the study, the situation of agriculture in the Americas in 2013 and 2014 was a tale of two extremes. The northern and southern regions of the hemisphere benefited from favorable climatic conditions and an expansion in the acreage planted with cereals and oilseeds, with record production and trade levels being achieved in 2012 and 2013.
In contrast, Central America and other tropical regions experienced heavy cereal, coffee, and other crop losses, due to drought and outbreaks of pests and diseases.
The same regions also faced increased competition from certain Asian and African nations in the international markets of products such as bananas, pineapple, coffee, cassava, and cacao, among others.
The report also provides an analysis of the livestock and fisheries subsectors in the region. Another section examines the current state of agricultural policies in various countries of the region, emphasizing the need to redouble efforts to modernize policy frameworks, moving beyond traditional sectoral approaches.
“If the countries aim to achieve sustainable and inclusive increases in agricultural productivity, they must devise policies that promote productivity and competitiveness, foster equity and raise the incomes of the neediest producers, and ensure the sustainability of natural resources and the adaptation of agriculture to climate change,” observed Miguel García, IICA’s Representative in the United States and the coordinator of the publication for the Institute.
Given the limited possibilities of incorporating new land into crop production, ECLAC, FAO, and IICA are agreed thatincreasing total factor productivity is the best way to achieve the growth, equity, stability, and sustainability of the sectorin LAC. To do so, the specialists recommend, among other things:
- Strengthening the State’s powers to influence the sector
- Enhancing educational management and human resource capabilities
- Increasing investment in research, development, and innovation (R&D&I)
- Strengthening trade policy
- Improving the entrepreneurial and associative capabilities of producers
“Many recommendations are made but we don’t expect all of them to be taken up. We are simply presenting them so you can evaluate and adapt them, and approach these institutions if you require their assistance,” García concluded.