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World Forum outlines protein demand

FOZ do IGUACU, Brazil ( Chinese economy will continue to grow over the next 10 or 20 years, and incomes could double in the next decade, increasing demand for world protein. 

That was just one takeaway at this week's First Forum of Agriculture of South America. Billed as a near equivalent to the USDA'a Ag Outlook Conference, without the crop and price projections, agricultural interests from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay all participated in the two-day event. 

Tom Lin Tan, Prospects of the Group Hopeful executive, a U.S.-based China agribusiness helping to expand soybean crushing, told forum attendees that the Asian country's consumers could see incomes double in the next decade. "The demand for protein is directly linked to meat consumption. We produce more than half (55%) of pork in the world. So we need both feed ingredients." 

Meanwhile, regarding the world's food supply, South America bet on continued gains in scaling rural production. But the international market expects more than that. The Forum participants discussed how to engage the region in discussion on food security - that requires orderly growth - and environmental sustainability.

With record after record in the grain harvest, Brazil remains attentive to the quality requirements of consumer markets, says Minister of Agriculture of Brazil Antonio Andrade. "We export to 160 countries, they expect it of us," he said. "The world believes and hopes that can harness the potential of South America to produce food."

Andrade believes that the country is reaching 90 million tons of soybeans in 2013/14 – for the first time. This means new expansion of exports, he said, up to U.S.$ 100 billion in 2013.

The increase in production in the region has the function to compensate for a slower pace in other continents, noted Ken Ash, director of agriculture and commerce of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD ).

He says the participation of South America in the international market is not just a number but a decisive factor for the supply and balance of food prices. "Developed countries still prefer to keep buying raw materials, but you can find markets for industrial products," he said. He believes that fostering innovation is one of the key points in the process.

The implementation of these policies is gaining more attention in South America, said Gonzalo Souto, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture of Uruguay. "This region of the world still has great growth potential, and the Ministries of Agriculture in these countries are coordinating efforts to promote a coordinated expansion," he said.

Neighboring countries are still unaware

The South American countries know little about what the neighbors plant to live or about their habits. The six participants of the First Forum on Agriculture (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay) should talk more, especially in the panel on products of national interest. If the lack of information on regional market demand is waste for agriculture, the condition worsens over less-known cultures.

Paraguay sees a large market for stevia, but it turns to China and sells little in South America. Bolivia bets on quinoa but finds greater interest in Europe. The South American demand for these two products is still unknown, say the speakers Victor Hugo Vásquez, Deputy Minister of Rural Development of Bolivia; and Javier Casaccia, head of the Research Program of Stevia and Medicinal Herbs of Paraguay.

"We expanded the cultivation of 131,000 to 160,000 hectares of quinoa in Bolivia, but we have 8 million acres that can be used in this culture," Vasquez said. He made a point of inviting the audience to know the alternative food in their countries, in an event that will make a kind of international launch of ancient grain (in Oruro, December 14 and 15).


Written by Jose Rocher, Gazeta do Povo newspaper editor

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