According to Rodrigo Castañón, the objective of the Chilean pork industry is “to represent and coordinate industry efforts in various productive and health issues to boost a sustainable, profitable, socially responsible and competitive pork sector worldwide.” In addition to being the Business Manager of ChileCarne, Castañón is the General Manager of the Chilean Pork Producers Trade Association (Asprocer). In an interview with PorciNews Latam, a digital magazine that reaches various Latin American countries, he talked about the new challenges of the industry in Chile; its distribution throughout the country; the sector’s average levels of productivity, slaughter, and annual growth; as well as exports, providing some figures for 2020.

“Today, the meat industry is positioned as the fourth largest food export sector in Chile, and in 2020 it exported 1.378 billion dollars, 19% more than in 2019. Pork is Chile’s most exported meat, with a 62% market share,” he explained. Castañón emphasized that the local industry operates under a vertical integration model, meaning that 100% of pork exporting companies have control over the entire production chain.

“The pork industry has helped develop the Chilean pork sector. Today, it directly employs over 12,000 people, mainly in rural areas of the Metropolitan, O’Higgins and Maule regions, and indirectly more than 10,000 people,” he told the Latin American news outlet. He also provided pork production figures compared to other meats (poultry and beef), and concluded by saying that pork represents 36% of Chile’s meat production in tons cwe.

Talking about the evolution in consumer preferences for pork and expectations for the future, Castañón said, “in recent years, the variety of pork cuts in Chile has expanded, mainly because of the requirements of foreign markets and it has been a success in Chile. One example is pork offal or rose meat.” He highlighted that “in Asian markets, consumers will continue to look for foods that ensure quality and traceability, given their concern not just about COVID but African swine fever as well. Recent trends include healthy and functional foods in diets, as well as time-saving foods (i.e., easy-to-make frozen foods). Undoubtedly, e-commerce, take-out, and delivery will continue to grow in 2021, and our industry is ready for these changes,” he added.

Castañón listed the main destination countries for Chilean pork exports, with Asia (Japan, South Korea, and China) being the main destination with more than 90% of shipments. He also talked about Chile’s current position among pork producing countries (15th), and as the 6th main exporter worldwide. When asked about the risks of concentrating exports’ destinations, he agreed that “it is indeed critical, and according to experts, the specific situation of China over the last three years because of ASF should stabilize in the coming years. However, thanks to Chile’s trade policy over the last 30 years, we are authorized to export to more than 60 markets, and we are also opening new ASEAN markets, where there is a lot of potential.” Castañón also explained how the industry manages the costs of raw materials and the search for alternative feed supplies.

Sustainable initiatives in the Chilean pork sector

The executive mentioned the importance of developing sustainability programs for the sector such as “Chile Conscious Origin” (Chile Origen Consciente). “The value of this initiative is that it is a public-private program that involves Chilean food producers, who implement measures to improve their sustainability performance, as well as the government through various agencies led by the Ministry of Agriculture, which acts as guarantor, highlighting the companies that certify the fulfillment of the goals set,” he pointed out.

The pork sector has specialized in the circular economy by making use of the remaining nutrients, organic matter, and water contained in effluents, such as fertilizers, soil improvers, and hydration. The productive sector has been implementing various treatment technologies to obtain optimal-quality effluents for various uses, such as activated sludge plants, biodigesters, worm trickling systems, solid-separation systems, waste water storage ponds, and solids composting, to name a few.

Finally, Castañón talked about animal welfare, the certifications available in Chile, as well as the expectations and challenges the industry faces this year, considering the health challenges caused by COVID-19. “On the one hand, Chilean pork must retain its competitive position in current markets such as China, Japan, and South Korea by keeping its trading partners while strengthening the commercial chain. In the medium term, the ChilePork brand must reach chefs and decision makers from the HORECA channel, and eventually the retail channel. This is all part of a joint strategy with ChilePork’s trading partners, with the intention to reach the end consumer. At the same time, Chilean pork must try to penetrate and position itself in new promising markets, such as ASEAN. In January, we exported pork to the Philippines for the first time, and in the medium and long-term, after obtaining the health authorization for our plants to export to Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, we will begin to work with potential importers and distributors to position Chilean pork in relevant markets for the global pork sector,” he concluded.