Director General of IICA: “Investing in agricultural innovation is a highly profitable business”
Montreal, June 16th 2014 (IICA). Investment in agriculture, especially in innovation, can be a highly profitable business from an economic, social and environmental perspective, according to Director General of the International Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Víctor M. Villalobos.
During the Conference of Montreal, Canada, organized by the International Economic Forum of the Americas, and in the presence of businessmen and political leaders of the region, Villalobos stated that the hemisphere has the potential to become a solution for the global food problem, but that its agrifood sector is in urgent need of significant transformations to achieve this goal.
IICA, as an organization of the Inter-American System specializing in agriculture, was invited to this meeting to present and explain why innovation is essential for the sector, and which key actors can enhance it further.
“We need to innovate, that is, do things differently and better. I believe there are three types of innovation with the potential of having a stronger impact on agriculture, making it more productive, competitive and sustainable – these are, technological, institutional and social innovation”, stated IICA's Director General during the conference held between June 9th and 12th.
Agriculture, he added, must increase its productivity by at least 70% in order to meet the needs of the 9 billion people who will live in our planet in 2050. Apart from food, the agricultural sector will need to produce raw material for other industries.
Nevertheless, in the Americas, the growth of agricultural production is limited by gaps in productivity between the countries, availability of land for new crops, competition with other sectors for water, the effects of climate variability and volatility, and the price of services and inputs needed to produce.
“In order to promote change processes, it is important to have a comprehensive and strategic approach, which in practical terms must translate into the implementation of national innovation policies”, expressed Villalobos.
And he added: “Innovation is the engine that will allow us all to build a better future for agriculture and food security, and investment is the fuel”.
The Director General pointed out that, from IICA’s perspective, it was paramount to focus on agricultural investments in innovation, so that the sector can adapt and contribute to the mitigation of climate change, strengthening small and medium scale production, producing more nutritious food, reducing food losses and creating more human resources to work in the agricultural sector.
He also stated that the private sector was essential for increasing investment in R&D in low and middle income countries that are highly dependent on agriculture.
“Public and private investments are also needed in the natural, physical and human capital, which have complementary roles in the agricultural production process. But national investment is insufficient, and it has become necessary to attract direct foreign investments, both in Latin America and the Caribbean”, he said.
These resources can be attracted with the help of governments, implementing clear, obstacle-free regulatory frameworks, solid educational systems, and with the promotion of R&D, establishing effective links between creators and users of knowledge.
“Technical cooperation organizations, such as IICA, can contribute to improving the institutional framework of innovation and its articulation with the needs of producers, as well as proposing alternatives for the allocation of investments”, declared Villalobos.