In this interview with ChileCarne’s newsletter, the General Director of ProChile (the Chilean Exports Promotion Bureau), Ignacio Fernández, explains that sustainability is a key pillar of their work, as a component of their actions -both in Chile and abroad-, and also to encourage exporters to include sustainability in their production and export processes. Fernández stressed that in 2022, the Chilean food industry reached 20.7 billion USD in exports, a 14.4% increase compared to 2021, which shows the sector’s adaptation to current changes (the economic crisis, the pandemic, international conflicts), and its ability to respond to new demands. In his opinion, promoting public-private partnerships is now more important than ever, while strongly supporting SMEs from all industries, which will be at the center of his 4-year tenure.

 What are your main challenges as head of ProChile, considering the various international factors that impact Chile’s exports? 

As a country highly dependent on international trade, we are not immune to the challenges the world has faced in recent years, such as the pandemic, armed conflicts, the economic crisis, etc. This is why ProChile is always looking for new ways to boost Chilean exports.

Because of these situations, we have seen changes in consumer demands, which are a direct response to the new scenarios we face. For example, in agri-food, consumers are no longer just looking for a tasty product, they also expect it to be sustainable, nutritious, and innovative, attributes to which producers and exporters are responding.

In fact, in 2022, the Chilean food industry reached 20.7 billion USD in exports, a 14.4% increase compared to 2021, which shows the sector’s adaptation to these changes and its ability to respond to new demands.

In agri-food, we will continue working hard with the industry to help meet the goal of 33 billion USD in exports by 2025. We will likewise support the efforts of various government agencies to strengthen our ties with international markets, like India while continuing to promote sales in Asia, as we are aware that it is a key destination for these products.

We will also help more agri-food small businesses join international trade, one of the key goals we have set for the 2023-2025 period.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges for food exports, particularly meat? How will you incorporate the private sector into the strategy to tackle those challenges? 

First, we need to consider the ongoing challenge of positioning ourselves against our competitors, stay active with promotional campaigns in all markets, keep raising our production standards, and meeting consumer demands in all corners of the world. All of this, while we diversify our export offer and continue working with small businesses, companies, trade associations, and our sectoral brands.

In food, and meat in particular, we have done very good work taking consumer trends into consideration in our target markets. We have seen continuous improvement in production standards, incorporating sustainability at the various stages, and the industry has been prepared to respond to the demands of traditional markets like China, while focusing on new markets that are opening up to Chile’s exports, like the Philippines.

In 2022, sheep, beef, pork, and poultry exports reached 1.8 billion USD, a 19.3% increase from 2021, proving that we need to work with the private sector to face current challenges and opportunities. Today, this public-private partnership helps us strengthen our position abroad and create synergy in promotion strategies, amplifying our message, and creating interest in our country. The goal is for Chile to keep consolidating its position as a world-class supplier while retaining its leadership in food production and exports; and meat plays a leading role.

What are ProChile’s pillars to position the country and its agroindustry in terms of sustainable exports?

We have set sustainability as a key pillar of ProChile’s work, as a component of our actions -both in Chile and abroad-, and also to encourage exporters to include sustainability in their production and export processes. We know this path is not easy and will not happen overnight, considering the many actors involved and the constant investment needed to improve the various stages of work. But we believe that public-private partnerships will help us include sustainability across various stages of development, to position Chile at the international stage.

In 2022, ProChile and the Office of Agricultural Research and Policies, ODEPA, conducted a study on climate action and the environmental footprint of the agri-food exporting sector. It helped us identify the efforts made by Chilean companies to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, showing their commitment to sustainability and also helping position Chile as a responsible trading partner.

Our work will continue to focus on promoting exports of goods and services with sustainable attributes, to boost our competitiveness in markets that are more demanding in this area. We are committed to partnering with Chilean exporters, providing them with free tools to assess their sustainable management, while keeping them informed about the measures and regulations of various markets, so they can adapt and continue exporting.

What will be the differentiating strategy of your leadership? At our meeting with the director, you talked about the need to include industry suppliers as potential exporters of services or products.

Now more than ever we need to promote public-private partnerships while supporting small businesses, which will be at the center of my four-year tenure. More specifically, one of our projects will be promoting suppliers from consolidated industries, to diversify our export mix and become global leaders. In the case of meat exports, we know there is a wide range of small businesses involved, which provide high-quality goods and services and could export to other markets.

In the export of cherries, for example, there are companies throughout the entire process that provide mechanized irrigation, seeds, packaging, and logistics and transportation services. In aquaculture, there are companies that supply nets, feed, and veterinary services, among others. We want to look for these companies and encourage them to export.