San Jose, 26 March 2020 (IICA). The Ministers of Agriculture of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru participated in a video conference on Monday to discuss standardization of regulations to guarantee the smooth transit of goods and supply of food in the region during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting was called on the initiative of Tereza Cristina, the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil, and was organized under the ambit of the Southern Agricultural Council (CAS), a body for which the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) serves as the Technical Secretariat.
During the meeting, the Brazilian minister commented that, “It is imperative that we ensure alignment at the highest political level, which should also be reflected in agile and clear instructions regarding the operational plan of border authorities”.
Joining the ministers at the online meeting were her counterparts in the region—Luis Basterra (Argentina), Antonio Walker (Chile), Rodolfo Max Friedmann Alfaro (Paraguay), Carlos María Uriarte (Uruguay), Jorge Luis Montenegro Chavesta (Peru) and Beatriz Eliane Capobiano Sandoval (Bolivia)—as well as representatives from Brazil’s ministries of Infrastructure and Foreign Affairs.
The Southern Agricultural Council (CAS), a regional ministerial consultation and coordination forum that is currently under the pro tempore Presidency of Chile, will coordinate the preparation of a document with standardized protocols to guarantee free movement of freight by road between the countries, including Colombia.
The ministers decided to set up a WhatsApp communication channel, in order to exchange information more quickly on possible problems that may arise.
They all confirmed that despite the closure of borders to travelers from other countries, there were no restrictions for agricultural freight.
“We need to anticipate what may happen if the situation deteriorates”, said Ministers Tereza Cristina, “remembering that maintaining sanitary corridors will guarantee not only exports but also local food supplies”.
The Brazilian minister stressed that, “We have a great responsibility to support these efforts: to guarantee the supply and maintenance of food chains – from producer to final consumer”.
Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, welcomed the convening of the online meeting by CAS and felt that it was an initiative that would help to stem the slowing down of trade, which could be potentially harmful for supply chains.
“Today, more than ever”, said Otero, “as we face this global emergency, we must maintain the supply of food to the entire population, particularly to the most marginalized groups”.