“Given Argentina’s long-standing experience with food exports and production, we are convinced that we should play a key role” in the context of the crisis brought about by the pandemic, Jorge Neme, Secretary for International Economic Relations said today at the opening of the international seminar on “Sustainable Agri-food Systems”, which was also attended by Minister of Social Development Daniel Arroyo and Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Luis Basterra, as well as by the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Manuel Otero, and the Director of the MERCOSUR Secretariat, Luiz Gonzaga Coelho Júnior.
Mr. Neme stated that “over the course of the pandemic, Argentina has done its part by continuing to supply the world with safe and high-quality food” and that “the domestic agri-food industry has quickly adapted to the new context, complying with strict health and safety protocols and supporting logistic networks.” He was also critical of “the way in which the vaccination process is being carried out” globally, “with millions of doses being hoarded by certain countries while the rest of the world cannot secure access to even a small number of doses.”
“When the pandemic struck, many countries, including Argentina, were still recovering from previous crises. In this context, hunger and malnutrition are still one of the main challenges we have to address. And since COVID-19 struck, the situation has become even worse. According to the latest estimates, between 80 and 130 million people will suffer from hunger and malnutrition in the world,” said the official of the Argentine Foreign Ministry, headed by Felipe Solá.
He stated that “the only path to meet these challenges is solidarity, both at the domestic level and at the level of the international community” and recalled that, in order to counter the economic impact of the pandemic, the administration of President Alberto Fernández introduced a series of priority measures for the most vulnerable sectors, including small and medium-sized enterprises and producers, and the lower-income sectors, by offering major social safety nets.
In addition, he pointed out that “at various United Nations fora and at the G20, Argentina has been promoting a true solidarity-based approach to advance joint solutions,” which is why we “insist on the vital importance of strengthening multilateralism in trade and environmental protection—two aspects that are key to the proper operation of food supply systems.”
Mr. Neme also stressed the need to “enable the development of productive areas with great potential to supply safe and high-quality food” and highlighted the fact that “in our country and in our region, there are plenty of examples of successful sustainable agricultural and livestock production experiences, based on great productive and technological capacity, which we must share with other regions in a solidary and cooperative fashion.”
The Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, in turn stated the following: “I would like to point out that when we talk about Latin America, we mean a region that is the largest net exporter of food in the world, with a 13.8% share in world trade. This is a trend that will most likely consolidate in the years to come, which is why we are guarantors of the world’s nutrition and food security and of its environmental sustainability.”
The aim of this two-day seminar, which will feature representatives and specialists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico and Peru, is to serve as a space for exchange and reflection on the challenges and opportunities related to agri-food policies in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.