At the release of the National Competitiveness Report, the Director of DNP said: “We saw imports of basic food items increase from one million tonnes to 15 million tonnes…the increasingly appalling handling of oil and coal… prompted us to destroy the agricultural system of the country…”.
Even though it was not clear whether the destruction of agriculture was a result of imports and/or the bonanza, it can be assumed that it is due to the former, as the bonanza was also caused by the prices of agricultural products. Furthermore, blaming imports is in line with the food sovereignty hypothesis, which President Petro subscribes to.
The need for profound changes to bring agriculture out of the backwardness is obvious. But, according to Dane, the agriculture sector generated 5.9% of GDP this year; More than construction (4.8%), the financial sector (4.8%), mining (3.9%) and communications (3.2%), and none of them have been destroyed. Moreover, this contribution is higher than that of Mexico (3.4%), Brazil (5.2%) and Chile (3.3%), which are major exporters of agricultural products.
The agriculture sector contributes 14.7% of national employment so far this year and is only ahead of commerce (18.1%). This contribution is much higher than that seen in the above countries.
Imports from the agricultural sector (WTO) in 2021 were 13.8 million tonnes. The first thing to note is that they are not just “basic foods”; There are many raw materials that are used to produce inputs for agricultural activity; For example, the preparation of soybean cake and the manufacture of animal feed.
secondly, 10 products represented 83.8% of the total volume; Maize, wheat and barley were 60.2%. In corn, national production has continued to increase; But import substitution, as proposed by the agriculture minister, implies tripling yields per hectare to replace 67% of imports, which are supplied by the United States. The alternative is to raise meat prices, to use only domestic corn in the production of concentrated feed.
Third, wheat and barley imports account for practically 100% of national consumption, as they are typical products of temperate regions and not of the tropics. They could be sown in the country; But since productivity would be much lower, consumers would have to pay for bread and beer at a much higher price than today.
The Director of DNP is a prominent academician and a great connoisseur of the country’s problems. That’s why you shouldn’t catch it from your colleagues, who go on trial without evaluating the possible negative consequences for the country and the government.
Hernan Avendano Cruz
Fascolda’s director of economic studies