Paraguay’s Minister of Agriculture launches battery of measures to cushion producers from the impact of a severe drought
San Jose, 9 March 2022 (IICA). The Government of Paraguay has launched a wide range of relief measures to actively tackle the situation faced by agricultural producers, due to a historic drought.
The Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of the South American nation, Santiago Moisés Bertoni,
outlined the initiatives in an interview with the program, AgroAmérica, which airs on TV AgroMais in Brazil.
The decisions include the granting of credit lines, debt refinancing, extensions on tax filing deadlines, and in the case of small farmers, direct assistance to purchase fuel and seeds.
“The Paraguayan farmer always pulls through and has demonstrated this many times before in difficult situations. We are working tirelessly to ensure that in the short term, this will become a temporary bad memory, as well as an opportunity to implement better solutions for agricultural production”, said Bertoni.
For more than two years, the drought has caused water levels to drop in the Paraná River—one of the most important rivers in South America—and this has affected economic activity, not only in Paraguay, but also in Brazil and Argentina.
Minister Bertoni remarked that, “Our country is heavily dependent on agriculture, and unlike other countries in the region, we do not have an outlet to the sea. Thus, due to our distance from the sea, we have to import inputs and export our production at a significantly higher cost. Recently, the lack of rains has affected our primary export product, which is soybean”.
Moreover, he said that, “We have a cultivated area of 3.2 million hectares that has been hard-hit by the drought and we estimate that production output has dropped between 50% and 60%. This year we will probably reap the worst harvest we have had since we began large-scale agriculture”.
The minister revealed that the phenomenon also affected livestock production, as the forage that was the regular source of food for the animals, disappeared due to the lack of water. He explained that, “Fortunately, in recent weeks, we had more rains and we hope that the situation will improve somewhat before winter”.
Bertoni acknowledged that the Paraguayan economy depends to a great extent on transportation via the Paraná and Paraguay rivers, which has been very difficult recently. “Due to the low water level, the barges cannot travel with a full load and this generates excessive costs for transportation, both for exports and well as for the importation of inputs. Paraguay has the third largest fleet of barges in the world, surpassed only by the United States and Brazil”.
The drop in the water levels of the rivers is further complicating a situation that was already difficult, due to price increases on the inputs that Paraguay imports, such as nitrogen fertilizers.
Bertoni confirmed that the conflict in Eastern Europe has added to the uncertainty, since Russia buys between 25 and 30% of Paraguay’s fisheries’ exports.
During the interview, Bertoni also referred to the importance of new technologies to improve agricultural production and to boost its resilience.
He confirmed that, “Regional cooperation is always important to enable the exchange of technologies and agricultural best practices, aimed at making production more resilient to increasingly frequent extreme climate events. Our region is a very important producer of food for the world, and therefore we have a tremendous responsibility and we must find mechanisms to enable farmers to access technology and knowledge to continue producing”.
Also in reference to the impact of climate change, Bertoni explained that Paraguay is working with multilateral cooperation organizations to facilitate the universal application of agricultural insurance.
Thus, he emphasized that, “We need to improve climate information, by installing more weather stations and improving their distribution throughout the national territory, so that these insurance packages can be reasonably priced for the producer. We must also equip different production regions with public irrigation infrastructure. In cooperation with Japan, we are making headway in a project to utilize irrigation in the zone adjoining the Yacretá Dam. This type of infrastructure has to be become increasingly more common in the region to facilitate the availability of water for production and environmental care”.
Bertoni also praised the work of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in preparing a joint message for the countries to the Americas to present at the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.
He emphasized that, “The region agreed on a document that enabled it to demonstrate its role in production and in the sustainability of global agrifood systems. We were able to show that transformations should be based on science and not on information that is biased or politically motivated, seeking to place a very important sector on trial. We have to continue on this path. We must adopt strong positions at international forums and join with producing countries in other regions, which share the same vision, so as to ensure that the production interests of the region are taken into account in negotiations and that we are allowed to contribute to the sustainable production of food for the world”.
The minister spoke in depth about the criticisms surrounding the types of agricultural production in the region and emphasized that a more active effort must be made in communicating the advances by many countries in Latin America in the area of sustainability.
“Our region is developing sustainable practices”—he said— “but we must communicate this more effectively to our trade partners, so that our production systems do not become an obstacle to trade, but instead a trade facilitator. We must work in a coordinated manner to make them more aware of the work that producers are doing to protect the environment. It is important to ensure that all information is science-based, so that new trade barriers are not imposed on our agricultural products. That is why we say that agriculture is not the problem, but part of the solution”.
AgroAmérica is a program on the Brazilian station, TV AgroMais, which is part of the Grupo Bandeirantes communication group, the product of a partnership with IICA.
The show depicts the current state of the agricultural and rural sector in IICA member countries, with a view to promoting experience sharing and discussion about the challenges and opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean in the area of agricultural and rural development.
Institutional Communication Division.