Brasilia, August 6, 2021 (IICA) – El Salvador seeks to revive its agriculture and hopes to become again a regional reference in terms of food production as it was in the 1970s, in order to support the development of its economy, explained the Minister of Agriculture and ‘Livestock from El Salvador, David Martínez, in an interview with the television program AgroAmérica, broadcast on the Brazilian channel AgroMais.
“We are a small country of around 20,000 square kilometers, but we are in a privileged geographical position and we have microclimates which help us to cultivate different cultures. In the 1970s, we were the largest producer of coffee and our crop of staple grains was the region’s first; we also grew fruit and were the largest regional exporter of melons. But the level of agricultural production has declined over time to a much lower level, ”explained Martínez.
The decline in agriculture has had dramatic economic, social and environmental consequences for this Central American country. “We have nearly three million Salvadorans,” said the minister, “living in the United States due to the lack of adequate conditions in the rural sector. That is why we have created an Agricultural Relief Master Plan. ‘agriculture, we intend to economically save our country ”.
The Plan was defined by Martínez as “a compass to visualize where we want to take agriculture in the next ten years”. He said, in this sense, that El Salvador will not seek to generate new technologies, but rather “to take advantage of the technology of other countries which have already experienced a situation similar to ours”.
Martínez, who recently visited Spain, gave the example of Almería: “40 years ago it was an extremely poor province; today it has a booming economy thanks to changes made on the basis of technology, research, strategic alliances and strengthening of agricultural sector cooperatives.
The minister said that since the start of the pandemic, the Salvadoran government has focused on ensuring food security, but clarified that the country was already facing a situation of extreme vulnerability before the COVID epidemic. -19. “Before the pandemic, we were already importing 80% of the food we consume, which is simply tragic. We must become a productive society by supporting the agricultural sector, generating adequate credit conditions, providing technical assistance and technologies, and strengthening institutions for farmers. We learn from friendly countries like Spain, Holland, Brazil, Costa Rica or Guatemala. With these strategic alliances, we will take a giant leap forward. It will not take years to change the reality of Salvadoran agriculture ”.
The first pillar of the Master Plan is the creation of a trust fund of $ 650 million to provide soft loans to producers of basic grains, vegetables, fruits, fish and meat. “Currently, banks cannot meet their needs and farmers end up resorting to loan sharks who charge them extremely high interest rates and make agricultural production unprofitable,” Martínez explained.
A second trust fund of $ 640 million is expected to be created to save the coffee sector. “The flavor and varieties of Salvadoran coffee are fabulous,” he said. “We want to revive the culture of coffee. We will probably never be the biggest coffee producers in the region again, but we want to reach two million quintals per year of production. There will be a total investment of $ 1.29 billion over four years to revive the agricultural sector and generate two million jobs, which will attract new generations and include women ”.
The third pillar, explained Martínez, will focus on building infrastructure in rural areas through productive projects, with schools, streets, street lighting, rural police, libraries, the arts, education and the Internet for communities: “With infrastructure, our goal is to prevent rural people from migrating to cities and the United States. By creating a decent place to live, we will change the reality of the country through the agricultural sector ”.
The minister also spoke of the need to strengthen law enforcement in rural areas. “El Salvador,” he said, “is one of the most violent countries in Latin America and the world. Part of the plan is to invest $ 120 million in rural police to ensure security, curb the entry of contraband and create fair competition “.
In addition, Martínez said he was working to strengthen the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock: “We are going to make radical changes to align our services with the objectives of the master plan. We have four independent institutions that we intend to modernize: the National School of Agriculture (ENA), the National Center of Agricultural Technology (CENTA), the Salvadoran Institute of Agrarian Transformation (ISTA), focused on cooperatism , and the Salvadorian Coffee Council. ”.
The minister revealed that a new research center will be created following the merger between ENA and CENTA, with the mission of training technical experts, teachers and farmers, who will receive technological kits to “change agriculture in a progressive and orderly manner ”.
He also announced the reengineering of state banks: “We are going to transform the Banco de Fomento Agropecuario into an agricultural development bank, to provide loans to the sector.
The Minister underlined the role of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in El Salvador’s agricultural development plans: “IICA is our technical arm. Their experience and know-how are essential, particularly with regard to breeding and the coffee sector ”.
Mr. Martínez also announced the plan to create the first coffee research institute in El Salvador: “We have obtained a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) of $ 45 million, of which 10 will go to research.
He then expressed his confidence that the Master Plan “will create opportunities and be an engine of economic growth. No one wants to leave the house. People migrate when they do not have the right conditions in their country. Salvadorians thrive wherever they can go. The three million Salvadorans living in the United States send us between 5 and 6 billion dollars in funds each year. The $ 1.29 billion we are going to invest in rural people will put an end to excessive migration. We have a huge challenge ahead of us ”.
AgroAmerica is a program of the Brazilian television channel AgroMais, belonging to the Bandeirantes communication group, which is the result of an alliance with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). The program presents the current situation of the agricultural and rural sectors in IICA member countries, with the aim of promoting the exchange of experiences and a discussion on the challenges and opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean in the field of agricultural and rural development