Increased access to technology and improved soil quality are essential to tackling agriculture’s production challenges
San Jose, 18 September 2020 (IICA). – The researchers whom IICA had invited to participate in the forum, agreed that Latin America and the Caribbean needs to increase producers’ access to technology, establish trade linkages with emerging markets, protect the environment and enhance soil quality, in order to boost its development and to overcome the pre-existing and now health crisis-related challenges facing the agriculture sector.
In the first in a new series of virtual forums organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Valeria Piñeiro, Senior Research Coordinator of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); León Kochian, Associate Director of the Global Institute for Food Security of the University of Saskatchewan; and Marcos Jank, Professor of Global Agribusiness and Coordinator of Insper (Institute of Education and Research) in Brazil, spoke on the challenges and opportunities for global food security.
Piñeiro cautioned that, “We must look at the food security hotspots throughout the world because there were regions in problems prior to the onset of Covid-19, which are deteriorating further due to the current situation. We can observe a tremendous imbalance in the surplus levels of different regions of the planet and we must consider the social impact of this situation”.
The panelists agreed that the pandemic had created business opportunities for the Americas, as a region with an abundance of food production. However, coupled with the rapid population growth, this had also created food security risks.
Marcos Jank reported that, “Brazil has seen substantial growth in exports. Latin America has a strong trade link with Asia, particularly China. They are developing an increasing interest in our products”.
Yet, he also mentioned that, “We have tremendous potential and will face a major challenge in the future, due to the increase in the population. Ensuring a healthy diet could prove extremely costly for Asian and African countries, where ensuring a healthy diet could consume 70% of the resources.
In the Americas, there are concrete scientific developments that have demonstrated the region’s vast potential as a food producer and developer of solutions. On the other hand, there have been improvements in soil health.
According to León Kochian, from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), 40% of the world’s soils are highly acidic and contaminated with toxins that damage the roots of plants.
“We have incorporated the sequencing of some plants and have made significant headway in boosting tolerance to the elements. Today, we can identify more tolerant varieties in the fields of Brazil and Africa. We can sequence the DNA of plants to recover and improve crops that are much more nutritional than the main products harvested around the world”.
“Moreover”, he said, “we must continue improving soils to provide greater opportunities for farmers and consumers. This is an example of production using advanced technology”.
Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA, also participated in the forum.
“Food security is a priority for the Institute and for all its Member States. It is not solely a matter of availability and the national food trade. Today, there are millions of undernourished people, with major differences between countries and even within countries”, said Otero.
León Kochian explained that changes would be needed to reduce these gaps, by equipping rural populations in the hemisphere with technological developments that create a substantial difference in what is produced, how it is done and how much is produced.
“The history of agriculture is the history of discovery and innovation”, he remarked, “but these innovations are not reaching the small farmer quickly enough”.
Another critical matter that was raised was the need to access sufficient resources for food production.
Researcher, Valeria Piñeiro, commented that, “Volatility in exchange rates and limited access to credit curtail competitiveness. The World Bank estimates that there will a sharp decline in the regional economy in the coming years and we need to access quality food to supply the needs of our people”
In Latin America and the Caribbean, we are accustomed to short-term shocks. Through private and public collaboration, we must ensure that producers have access to inputs, for their benefit and that of the consumers. Agriculture is the main challenge in the agrifood chain”, commented Marcos Jank, from the Insper Institute in Brazil.
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Institutional Communication Division.