In his role as president of the Southern Agricultural Council (CAS), the Chilean Agriculture Minister, Antonio Walker, participated in a meeting that brought together 31 Agriculture Ministers and Secretaries from the Americas. The purpose of the meeting was to define efforts to strengthen agricultural activities in the midst of the ongoing pandemic and encourage the exchange of food products among countries in the region.
The government officials focused primarily on post-pandemic economic recovery and food security for their citizens. The participating countries reached agreement on a joint position that incorporates 11 points to ensure the region’s wellbeing. Chilean Minister Antonio Walker noted that these points include strengthening food production, easing trade and maintaining the functioning of national and international markets.
“We have made the decision to sign a document agreed to by all of the countries in the Americas to ensure collaboration, cooperation and to continue opening doors and borders for the exchange of food products. During these very difficult times when we are experiencing many deaths in the Americas, when the disease is spreading among our citizens, when the economy is experiencing significant negative growth, with rising unemployment and declining incomes, we must ensure food security and the document that we have all just signed addresses how we can tackle hunger in the Americas,” said Minister Walker during the meeting attended by the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba and other countries.
The meeting was hosted by the Mexican Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Victor Villalobos, with support from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This was the second meeting held in 2020. The first meeting, hosted by Chile, was held on April 22 and focused on ways to deal with the impacts of COVID-19.
One of the topics studied by FAO is food insecurity, which is currently affecting the region’s population. In 2019, 47.7 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean experienced hunger, equivalent to 7.4% of the region’s citizens, according to a study published today by the organization.
Furthermore, FAO indicated that the region, even though it has the capacity to feed its population, has seen its food security diminish in recent years and the pandemic could have a severe impact on specific countries and territories. Minister Antonio Walker pointed out that international collaboration is key to reversing this situation.
“Never before have we, as a continent, faced an issue as grave and as concerning as the level of food insecurity facing many in the Americas. (…) FAO has told us that 47 million people are facing food insecurity. This is what we are dealing with, this is why we need to work together. International collaboration is very important if we are to guarantee food in the Americas,” explained Chilean Agricultural Minister, Antonio Walker, who was accompanied by National Director of ODEPA (Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies), María Emilia Undurraga.
Finally, Minister Walker added that in the case of Chile, “for several products, we produce a surplus and therefore, we export many agricultural products, yet we also have an agricultural deficit in terms of other products. We have to import rice, legumes, wheat, corn and red meat. Thus, international collaboration is key to ensuring food for everyone in the Americas (…) we have agreed to continue working and another meeting will be held in October.”
The following points were agreed upon in the joint document:
1. Strengthen the production of food and agricultural, forestry, fishery and aquaculture products in our countries, recognizing the strategic role that the agrifood sector will play in reactivating our economies and providing opportunities for progress.
2. Apply sanitary measures, when necessary, to protect the health and life of humans, animals and crops, without this representing a restriction or impediment to international trade and the flow of food.
3. Affirm the importance of the risk analysis process for assessing, managing and communicating risks of concern to protect public health while enabling safe national and international trade of food and agricultural products.
4. Commit to improving transparency and predictability in the establishment and adoption of new national sanitary measures and protocols.
5. Strengthen the implementation of the Agreement of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) by working collectively to enhance shared understanding of its provisions, including scientific justification, as they pertain to measures and protocols that protect human health as well as agricultural health and food safety.
6. Reaffirm our World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments to facilitate trade, not create unnecessary obstacles to trade, and protect human health and safety by working collectively to strengthen the implementation of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Trade Facilitation Agreements.
7. Maintain proper functioning of national and international markets, as well as supply chains, through the timely exchange of information on food availability, demand and prices.
8. Continue supporting the participation of small and medium-scale agriculture as well as agricultural, fisheries and aquaculture production in agrifood chains, particularly during the pandemic and the subsequent period of economic recovery, through public policies, public and private investment, as well as the allocation of funding in the corresponding countries.
9. Reaffirm the importance of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as the relevant international standard-setting bodies for food safety and quality and plant and animal health, and commit to actively enable and facilitate regional participation in the work of these bodies or related subsidiary bodies.
10. Reaffirm our support for international technical cooperation, through multilateral agencies in agriculture such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as well as our determination to complement our capacity building, innovation, inclusion and sustainability efforts, in the agriculture sector across the hemisphere, in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
11. Reiterate the importance of Cooperation between the countries, in particular on matters affecting, whether directly or indirectly, the production, processing and trade of raw materials, food, and agricultural inputs and/or technologies that are essential to the development of agriculture and food.