The head of the public institution in charge of promoting Chilean goods and services abroad talked about food exports, highlighting the pork sector’s adaptability and attributes of quality, traceability, and food safety, which have led it to be highly recognized and valued in international markets.

The General Director of ProChile (the Chilean Exports Promotion Bureau), Jorge O’Ryan, also talked about Chile’s opportunity to become a global powerhouse in sustainable food, allowing it to increase added-value exports.

As for the meat industry in particular, he stressed that the next step for exports is to target the end consumer and influence their purchase decision, making it key to know the marketing and consumption trends left by the pandemic; and ProChile supports the industry precisely on that.

– How do you see the global economic scenario? How are the various economic, political, and health conditions impacting Chile’s exports, food and meat in particular?

Our companies and all those involved in the export chain had the ability to be flexible in the face of the situation that was affecting the world. Chile enjoys an international reputation as a reliable supplier, and the export chain never stopped over all these months. Foreign trade is an essential part of the Chilean economy. It represents 52% of our Gross Domestic Product and creates a total of 2.9 million jobs, 30% of the country’s workforce. Without them, we would not have been able to keep our international commitments and contribute to the country.

The pandemic and extended lockdowns brought changes that will continue over time, such as the pleasure of cooking at home, online shopping, online services and entertainment, higher awareness about health care and how we eat, among other trends.

In terms of food exports, we have seen that they have continued to grow. Of course, because we were adapting to the pandemic, we saw some drops in 2020, but food exports have recovered in 2021.

Between January and October, food exports have reached 15 billion USD, 11.3% higher than the same period of the previous year. Organic food exports represent 287 million USD, growing 13% over the previous year. The largest food exports ever recorded occurred in January 2021, when 2.3 billion USD were exported, 4% higher than the same month of the previous year.

– Today, ProChile states that “it promotes a sustainable, innovative export supply with a gender and indigenous-people inclusion approach.” In which of these pillars should agribusiness focus, considering the sustainable goals?

The truth is that it should focus in all of them. The Chilean agri-food sector is dynamic and adapts to consumer demands, adding attributes such as quality, traceability, and safety, which have led it to be highly recognized and valued in international markets for its innovation and sustainability, further reinforcing its global position.

Our country is a huge food exporter, a global leader with a wide range of products such as cherries, salmon, dried and dehydrated fruit, plums, etc.; and today the industry is changing and moving towards a low-impact, innovative production, with great examples at the international level like the NotCo brand. Chile is developing foods that favor health and promote a healthy life.

Our industry is a guiding light for other countries in Latin America and it is recognized worldwide thanks to the quality of its products, but also the technological development that supports it.

Innovation in food production is one of the key factors for the industry, as some consumption trends are strengthened today: such as “free-of foods” for special diets, foods with specialized additives, fortified foods, functional ingredients, food supplements, etc., and Chile is developing a new offer that meets those demands.

There is also sustainability, an effort that is being made and must continue. Today, the Chilean food industry faces a great challenge: to create sustainable processes to achieve highly nutritious products with low impact that help mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Agriculture plays a key role on the path to carbon neutrality and the balance of biodiversity. The challenges of the sector have a significant impact on the ecosystem; therefore, measures have already been implemented to protect it. However, it is necessary to keep improving water and soil management, investing in regeneration and reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals in production processes.

Chile has the opportunity to become a global powerhouse for sustainable food. This will allow it to increase added-value exports and reduce costs, while maintaining safety and quality standards. And the Chilean agri-food industry has been able to react. More and more producers are incorporating sustainable production mechanisms and/or satisfactorily responding to regulation and consumer requirements in international markets.

The various agro-industrial sectors in Chile have set a roadmap for tackling future challenges posed to food production and the necessary changes to become a more sustainable industry. As such, they have proposed a set of initiatives that include efficient use of water, using renewable energy for production, waste management, and the adoption of new technologies, to name a few. 

– There are around 27 subsectors related to agri-food exports, 11 of which have been prioritized for international promotion; one of them is the meat sector. What specific initiatives will be conducted in the short term to strengthen the image and promotion of the sector in primary destination countries?

ProChile works closely with various trade associations, companies, and public bodies to strengthen the international image of Chilean food products with their attributes of safety, innovation, and sustainability. In the case of meat, the sum of all these attributes allows us to consolidate a narrative and reach the tables of the most demanding consumers worldwide with pork, chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb.

We are talking about the third largest agricultural and livestock exporting sector in Chile. For example, as of October 2021, Chilean meat exports reached 1.2 billion USD, led by pork and poultry products, showing an 8% increase compared to the same period in 2020.

It is a mature export sector that is getting stronger by the day. With the help of our network of commercial offices, we are jointly carrying out strong promotional work in various events; and, at the same time, we try to identify potential new clients while consolidating the markets where Chile is the main supplier.

This year we are working with China and Japan as priority markets, also seeking to become closer to exporters and potential buyers. Knowing the marketing and consumption trends left by the pandemic is key for Chilean companies to make an informed export decision, and that market intelligence comes from our offices.

China is our main trading partner: exports of non-copper goods and services to China reached 6.9 billion USD in the January-October period, 27% higher than the same period of the previous year. In the export basket, food plays an important role, with pork and poultry being two key products.

In fact, at the end of the year we hold Chile Week China in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, with promotional activities that include these meats. We will have a masterclass and cooking show with pork preparation and tasting focused on promoting loyalty among chefs, importers, and distributors.

As face-to-face events are returning, we need to reconnect with our trading partners through high-impact actions that connect Chilean companies that are already in the market with importers, distributors, and counterparts in the region.

In 2022, we plan to keep working hand in hand with the sector to advance in the consolidation of international markets, also targeting the final consumer. This year we have strengthened our narrative with videos and social media strategies that clearly showcase the various attributes of our export supply, part of which was the unboxing campaign led by soccer star Alexis Sánchez. We want to strengthen that bond, especially with China and Japan. Importers recognize Chile as a superior meat supplier; but we also want to target the end consumer, to influence the final purchase decision.

For this joint work we also have an important set of tools such as the Export Promotion Fund and the ChilePork sector brand, which in 2022 will focus on retaining consumers from Japan and South Korea, as well as the Philippines, thanks to the recent health authorization (May 2020) of pork.