“Our biggest challenge as an industry will be to adapt to all these changes while following our long-term strategy to become an increasingly sustainable industry that supports Chile’s growth and drives development in rural areas,” writes ChileCarne’s President, Juan Carlos Domínguez in this opinion piece.
Resilience is the ability to overcome difficult moments and adapt after experiencing unusual or unexpected situations. And like any other skill, it does not happen spontaneously, neither in people or companies. We all must cultivate it to be prepared to respond to changes in the environment.
In the agricultural sector, we are quite used to facing unexpected challenges that can impact our trade. Extreme weather, diseases, political, and social contingencies, including wars, can and have happened, testing our ability to respond and adapt to challenges that are often beyond our control. It is a shame that this time they are all happening at once….
First, it was COVID, which required a huge industry effort to continue operating and supplying meat despite the restrictions. We reacted promptly and were able to maintain operations without compromising the health of those involved in the industry.
The logistical issues caused by COVID restrictions in addition to the economic stimuli in many countries in response to the pandemic created a new challenge: soaring prices of many goods, services, and supplies that considerably increased production costs. Grains, energy, and transportation are still at record levels, to name just a few.
In this scenario, no one thought that a new armed conflict could come about. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coupled with all the repercussions that such a conflict produces, puts the global grain supply in check, as both countries are major grain producers and, in the case of Russia, also a major fertilizer supplier.
If we add to that our local challenges: the social crisis, a new government, the constitutional process, there is no doubt that we are living uncertain times that will test our ability to adapt and respond to changes.
So the question is: are we prepared to face all these challenges, and what can we do to strengthen our resilience capacity as a sector? The answer is simple: with more and better destination markets for our products.
Free trade agreements are more important than ever, as are animal health agreements, which allow us to reach more than 60 destination markets thanks to the health and safety conditions of our poultry and pork production. This has also led us to incorporate cutting-edge technology and handling practices that have helped us develop a top-quality industry that delivers healthy and safe products to our consumers in Chile and the world.
However, these conditions alone are not enough. On the one hand, it is vital to update trade agreements, as was done with South Korea and the European Union in recent years, just as it is important not to be left out of new and better international treaties that allow Chile to keep growing its response capacity in the face of the constant changes, like those that we have experienced and that will continue in the future. In this particular area, the signing of the TPP 11 is key to maintaining our competitiveness and thus continue to develop our industry. The public-private effort of the last 30 years that has gotten us where we are today has been gigantic, both in terms of resources and time, and we cannot afford to lose it. In order to preserve the meat industry in Chile, which was key to ensuring protein supply during the worst of the pandemic without depending on third countries, export growth is vital. Exports are and will continue to be the driver behind our agriculture, allowing us to have an industry that provides healthy and fresh food every day of the year. To use a phrase that has been widely repeated in recent times, “food security is based on maintaining our exports.”
Countries that think they can achieve their development by themselves are wrong. Every country, just like individuals, must put their capacities and strengths at the service of others to build a better future together. The better the conditions of free trade, the higher the possibilities of growth, as well as preserving world peace. Although it is said that wars are usually triggered by economic reasons, it is also true that a higher economic interdependence means higher chances of avoiding new conflicts between nations.
Our biggest challenge as an industry will be to adapt to all these changes while following our long-term strategy: to become an increasingly sustainable industry that supports Chile’s growth and drives development in rural areas.