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The countryside as an ally

10:21 26 de January de 2022 By Daniel Oiticica

David Martinez: “Those who come fall in love with the country, because they cannot believe that there is a place with so many facilities”. Photo: Fabio Lima.

The agricultural sector of El Salvador has already begun its rescue plan for the sector with an investment estimated of 1.29 billion dollars. In the following interview, David Martínez, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, reveals all the projects for the sector.

What are the projects of the agricultural sector of El Salvador?
We created a plan to stimulate the agricultural sector with three pillars. Number one is Food Sovereignty. What are we looking for with this pillar? That the country once again be productive in five areas: basic grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood and meat products. So, we created an escrow with a structure dedicated to how to produce, what to produce, in what status to produce and even how to market. The Inter-American Institute for Agricultural Cooperation accompanies us in the formation of the same document to make a focused plan, and above all viable. We are helped by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank.

The second pillar is the rescue of the coffee sector. We exported more than 4 million quintals annually. We were the largest producers in the region, and the fourth largest producer in the world. This status must be recovered. And as a third pillar, we created a ruralization program, which is the productive base of the food sovereignty plan. It is about bringing infrastructure to rural areas, which will help us to generate development poles and to grow based on this productive mass that we have. Within these three pillars there are eight transversal actions. We have to transform the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, one of the most important challenges. We are analyzing in depth the structure of the ministry and we are going to do it from scratch, we are going to create a new ministry, adapted to the world needs.

Another fundamental action is the strengthening of the rural police. One of the greatest successes that the Government has had is the Territorial Control Plan. We were one of the most insecure countries and now, we have lowered homicide rates by approximately 95%. With the Rural Police, we seek to have a greater presence and security in the countryside. We have signed an agreement with MAAVI, a Research Center that depends on Kimitec, in Almería, Spain. Forty years ago, Almería was a desert in poverty and today is the most important producer of vegetables in all of Spain and, therefore, in the world. They are going to help us to create our Research Center, the CEIA (Center for Agricultural Education and Research).

We now have an agricultural intelligence department, in charge of delivering technology kits to our farmers. For example, a bean seed is no longer delivered, but a technified kit, with the entire manual to improve yield by 20% or 30%, in order to aspire by 2022 to be self-sufficient in basic grains. We are also promoting banking reengineering. The bank currently does not measure the agricultural sector as it should. We are going to create a Development Bank to serve the agricultural sector.

How has the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) been helping?
CABEI is one of our strategic allies. At the moment, we are working on a loan that we are going to inject into an escrow of 6 million dollars. They are also helping with 6 million dollars for the strengthening of the National School of Agriculture, to improve the plan.We have a project of academic home gardens community that we are going to link with training in the different sectors of agriculture, not only to teach the basics, but also training on how we are going to make the technological leap, how we are going to get gathering centers, how we are going to give added value to the product. We are creating an agrarian code to give an excellent use to the land, in response to cooperatives with unused lands. We have built a super ambitious and visionary plan, radical changes. Through this plan, we are definitely going to change the reality of the country.

What does El Salvador have to offer to the investor in the agricultural sector?
They can invest in El Salvador to transform El Salvador, and take advantage of the Free Trade Agreements. We must bear in mind that El Salvador is a very small country and this makes its logistics extremely low-cost. There is an important company that is going to invest in the Usulután area, because there is a great production of coconut. They are interested in doing their processing. That is to say, whether or not there is a type of product at this time in El Salvador, we have all the potential to generate wealth. The important thing is that they know the country, that we are a tropical country and that we have a large quantity of fruits and vegetables, which can be produced here, but can also be transformed here. We have a lot of potential. Let them come and see first-hand the experience we have had in these months leading the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. Those who come fall in love with the country, because they cannot believe that there is a place with so many facilities. This is the time to multiply money, and it can be multiplied in El Salvador.

There are important investments in 2021, but we know that 2022 is going to be an even stronger year in investments, 1.29 billion dollars. This is the time to invest in El Salvador. There is no other country in the world that can offer what we are offering to investors. We are working on the modification of the Agricultural Free Zones Law, creating an Agricultural Ecosystems Law, which makes this country extremely attractive. We have a myriad of free trade agreements that are not being used and a lot of tax benefits that were not used to the maximum. The investor who comes to the agricultural sector should know that we have a Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock at his disposal, laws that will guarantee and support his investment, and solid legal security. We want to make El Salvador the largest production hub in Latin America.