Neuquén launches a regional table to double production
15 Dec 2020
They seek to satisfy a growing demand in the world with the possibility of increasing exports.
The production and consumption of organic products has been growing more than 14% in the period 2017-2021. According to a study presented at the Biofach Fair in Nuremberg, in Germany, countries like the United States project an increase in consumption of around 10% per year. Argentina is positioned in this scenario as the main exporter of organic apples and pears to the European Union, with an annual volume of 20.7% of the market, according to data from INTA Alto Valle and the Neuquén government.
In this context, what is the setting for Neuquén production? What is the horizon for organics? In dialogue with LM Neuquén, Mariela Teixe, Director of Fruit and Horticulture of the Production Undersecretariat, explained the challenges of organic production and assured that next year the North Patagonia Regional Table will be launched, which will promote green production. With the aim of doubling the number of cultivated hectares, producers and exports by 2030.
The consumption of organic food increases in the world, what happens in our country and in the area?
Globally, every time we have meetings, you see how consumption grows. For example, the United States is a large consumer of organic – especially apples from Argentina – and food consumption grows 1% per year and organic food grows 10% per year. It is a lot of people and that gives you a guideline.
And on the production side, what is the photo?
To be a certified organic producer, you need the endorsement of the National Service for Agri-food Health and Quality (SENASA), which implies that you register with the certification body, which notifies SENASA. In its statistical yearbook it is seen that in Neuquén they went from 800 hectares with pears and apples in 2017 to almost 1,650 in 2018. Between that year and 2019, it more or less remained. At the country level there has been growth.
Argentina has exceptional agroecological conditions to be a very strong producer, it is the second in area but not in quantity. It could be in a better position because the conditions are very good, from Jujuy to Tierra del Fuego.
We are exporters of commodities and what has a lot of weight is the added value. For example, the president of MAPO is a producer of organic rice and complains that Peru buys his production, processes it and exports it as rice flour. And he wonders: “Why can’t I do the same?”
And why can’t you?
In this specific case, there needs to be a mill in which the process is certified. The National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) has been working on the certification of processes with MAPO and other institutions since 2019.
Let’s talk about sanitation, how do you fight pests?
In SENASA there is a list of products allowed for organic production. They are natural products. There are also agroecological preparations such as garlic extract, tobacco, potassium soaps.
Is the production exported in its entirety?
The certified organic product is exported. What is left in the domestic market is very little, last year it was 1% and now it seems to have risen to 2%, according to MAPO numbers. But you have to think that these figures include certified organic and not agroecological.
What are the main challenges?
I think the challenge is that we need to continue with Research and Development (R&D). Just as we have superlative conditions for organic production, we also have those conditions for pests such as carpocapsa. With agroecological products you never finish fighting them and the reality is that the markets demand fruit without plague. There is research on this topic, INTA is working with new products but they are not yet available.
I also believe that other productions should be advanced. For example, Neuquén now has only one certified organic horticultural producer. It is a challenge, it is easier to buy the chemicals for pests. This production is something else: it implies a greater commitment and many times you have to make the decision to go there.
I will tell you a fact: a consumer of organic fruit in the world eats 8 kilos of apples per year, and 2 of pears. With apples you cannot put chemical thinners; This means that you have to put a lot of people in the harvest and that has a high cost.
Everything seems very uphill …
It is laborious but not impossible; people who produce in this way are very satisfied. I see that the marketing part is perhaps easier. It is easier to position and sell organic products.
Will it be so difficult everywhere?
No, Santiago del Estero produces certified organic honey that they take from hives that they simply put in the bush. They only put the hives and the honey is certified. Someday we want to get to certify the cider in Neuquén. I’ll tell you another example: Tierra del Fuego in the previous administration was going to declare a province with organic production. Why did he do it? Because they produce peat, which is organic, it is there. Not all systems are complex.
As a country, we are aspiring to double the number of producers, cultivated hectares, export volume and others, in 2030. At the regional level, they asked us to set up a North Patagonia Regional Table, with Río Negro and Chubut. We plan to form this regional table in 2021, bring the actors together and say: “Let’s go there.” See what they need, why they do not increase the amount of production, why it does not diversify, why it is expensive and so on.