There is no question our industry is going through times of great uncertainty and facing major challenges: the potential outcome of the referendum to approve a new Constitution will continue to influence investment decisions; the global spread of diseases that impact animal production and could jeopardize our production and exports; and the higher prices of inputs for our main products have already forced numerous farms to close. Disruptions in the supply chain are not just delaying the arrival of grain to feed our animals but also increasing delivery times for our products and driving up logistics costs; there is also uncertainty regarding new trade agreements that are critical to maintain our industry’s competitiveness; and the bill to reduce the working week to 40 hours does not seem to consider that agriculture is a 24/7 business.
I could continue to list current threats and challenges, but I think that would underestimate the great progress made by our industry in recent years.
Because despite the lack of large plots to produce grain –a key input for poultry and pig production– and the series of free trade agreements that open our market to meat from Argentina, Brazil, and the United States, Chilean poultry and pork producers have managed to build a world-class industry that can ensure the supply of natural animal protein to 19 million Chileans and more than 40 countries.
We are also an industry that acknowledges that agricultural production must be sustainable and its growth must comply with the highest production standards. That is why our industry, together with the dairy sector, has supported the Chile Conscious Origin program led by the Ministry of Agriculture to standardize production processes in order to measure, compare, and implement improvements in various areas of our business that are essential for its future growth, such as: caring for the environment, our relationship with neighboring communities and workers, and the development of processes that ensure the highest product quality.
We were the first industry to support the proper use of antibiotics in animal production and the first to join the “prudent use” program of the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG). As an industry, we have been monitoring the use of antibiotics in our animals for more than 5 years. Similarly, we were one of the first countries to conduct a study on antibiotic resistance in our sector, becoming one of the most advanced in this area.
We have promoted stricter health controls at our borders to prevent the entry of diseases into our country. Our ongoing coordination with SAG, our support in controlling the entry of food products through our northern borders, our donation of dogs to the Canine Brigade and equipment for disease detection laboratories are clear examples of our industry’s enduring commitment with the protection of our health asset.
Although we have always said that our geographic isolation and the signing of free trade agreements have been key pillars for our exporting industry’s growth, it is also true that there is a fundamental component to explain our success: a vocation for efficient production.
Efficiency, the optimal use of resources, boosts our competitiveness and allows us to compete on an equal footing with the largest producers in the world. But moreover, efficiency is also the fundamental pillar on which our industry’s sustainability is based: the more efficient we become in the use of resources, the better we care for the environment.
Efficiency can be seen throughout the value chain: from the optimal preparation of animal diets to the adoption of best practices in our farms, which have allowed us to improve conversion factors and thus save large amounts of grain (and water!) in animal rearing. At the same time, better farm management results in healthier animals that need fewer antibiotics and resources. Today, slurry and water treatment allows us to reuse most of the water from our processes and, in turn, provide natural fertilizers that benefit both the companies and their neighboring communities, avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers and promoting a circular agriculture. At the slaughter plants, in transportation, packaging, etcetera… In short, we have managed to be more and more efficient in each stage of our production.
Today we are focused on using water even more efficiently in our production processes. Although the livestock sector represents only 0.7% of the water used in agriculture, we can still make an additional effort to improve our indicators.
The world population will continue to grow, as will demand for protein, which means that the demand for our products will keep rising in the coming years. As long as we keep making progress toward an increasingly sustainable production, we will see positive results and as an industry, we will be able to contribute to the development of Chile and its people.
Juan Carlos Domínguez C.
Chilean Meat Exporters’ Association