Agricultural attaches of the Americas to the European Union (EU), based in Brussels, Belgium, and Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA, engaged in a virtual dialogue organized by the Argentine Embassy in the EU. They discussed strategies and courses of action to address the current spike in food and energy prices and the crisis in the chemical fertilizer market
San Jose, 7 July 2022 (IICA) – The Americas, as the world’s major agrifood producing and exporting region, has a major duty to maintain global food security, given the daunting challenge of tackling simultaneous crises.
This was the commonly expressed view of agricultural attaches of the Americas to the European Union (EU), in Brussels, Belgium, and the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Manuel Otero, in a virtual dialogue organized by the Embassy of Argentina to the EU. The discussion addressed strategies and courses of action to respond to the current spike in global food and energy prices and the crisis in the chemical fertilizer market.
The discussion enjoyed widespread participation and included agricultural and trade attachés from embassies from other regions, as well as European Commission staff.
Argentina’s Ambassador to the EU, Pablo Grinspun, hosted the event, which was convened by Argentina, in its capacity as Pro Tempore President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
“Tackling the current challenges calls for coordinated action among countries, international organizations, the private sector and civil society. Many of the difficulties that have fueled the food security crisis were already present, but have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Europe”, said Grinsupun. Having pointed out the tremendous value and importance of IICA’s work in the current situation, he stressed that the fight against climate change and to preserve biodiversity are the focus of the European agenda, as it relates to the impact of agriculture.
“We are noting with concern the external repercussions of the European Green Deal and the impact of its environmental regulations on food producing and exporting countries, such as Argentina and many others in Latin America,” said Grinspun. He emphasized that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in tackling global climate change mitigation still applies and that food should be produced in a sustainable manner, although not necessarily following a single model. Argentina’s head of mission to Brussels insisted that, “Agricultural transformations should be adapted to the priorities and needs of each country and region”.
On the other hand, Gastón Funes, Argentina’s Agricultural Attaché to the EU and moderator of the debate, indicated that regional integration and solidarity among countries is key during times of crisis, such as the one we are facing today. He also confirmed the vital importance of IICA’s current efforts to coordinate a joint position among the Americas vis-à-vis agrifood system transformation, in view of the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 27) in Egypt.
Funes also reinforced the need to create a balance between environmental sustainability, productivity and food security, recalling that, “We have talked a great deal about cooperation, and indeed, regional integration and solidarity are critical in times of crises. We must produce more with less; thus, technology, innovation and science are essential. Furthermore, he highlighted IICA’s preparations to coordinate countries’ efforts to reach a common position on the road to COP 27. Food security is a top priority in the global agenda”.
The role of the region
The IICA Director General explained that, given its abundance of natural resources, the Americas “has a strategic role to play in global food and environmental security. Therefore, the current events present a particular challenge for us and require a response in keeping with the circumstances, not only in the short-term, but also from a structural perspective and based on a vision aimed at building a future that, of necessity, must be more sustainable and resilient”.
Otero analyzed the economic and social situation in Latin America and the Caribbean to substantiate the fact that the food security challenge in the region should be seen within the broader context of growing concerns about growth, poverty and inequality, environmental sustainability and the surrounding macroeconomic environment.
In terms of consumer-related public policies that must be introduced, Otero called for the prioritization of “social protection and food aid, targeting the most vulnerable sectors, rather than generalized energy subsidies or international trade restrictions, which inevitably end up increasing global market volatility”.
Otero told the agricultural attaches that, among other actions, IICA facilitates discussion among ministers of agriculture of its member countries and works with other international organizations to try to remedy the situation in fertilizer markets, as countries in the region depend heavily on these inputs to sustain food production.
Otero also explained that IICA is promoting a joint effort by the countries in the region, by way of a regional partnership that focuses of five strategic areas of work.
These include the design, financing and implementation of a new generation of public policies to strengthen agrifood systems in the region’s countries; positioning of the agriculture sector of the Americas in climate discussions, emphasizing the need to strike a balance with environmental and food security concerns; and the promotion of innovation and the bioeconomy, by supporting scientific, technology and innovation efforts to bridge disparities in productivity that are cause for concern. Other strategies aim to generate the conditions needed to ensure that production expansion includes family farming in a way that will lead to rural development, poverty reduction and better conditions for women and other vulnerable groups; as well as to provide support for member countries in the promotion of intraregional trade and integration.
Following Otero’s presentation, there was a rich exchange of information and ideas with the Brussels-based agricultural attachés, in particular, with respect to the role of Latin American countries as international environmental creditors, given their immense abundance of natural resources.
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