(IICA) – Speaking to a gathering of experts on agricultural issues, convened by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), including Michael Kremer, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics, Víctor Villalobos, Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development gave a broad overview of the production and social scenario in his country – the world’s fourteenth largest producer and eight largest exporter of food.
In his more than two-hour keynote address, organized by IICA’s Advisory Council for Food Security in the Americas, Villalobos—a respected agronomist with a Doctorate from the University of Calgary, who throughout his career has helped promote the preparation of young professionals in agricultural sciences—indicated that “productivity, sustainability and inclusion” are the pillars underpinning Mexico’s public policies for agriculture. He also raised concerns about the water footprint in food production.
Villalobos felt that Mexico’s voice should be heard at the UN Food Systems Summit, slated for the end of September, stating that, “We want to share this with our fellow Latin American and Caribbean countries and with IICA”. He also endorsed the “initiative spearheaded by Manuel Otero (Director General of IICA) to make the next meeting of the IABA (Inter-American Board of Agriculture) a sounding box to ensure that the views of the hemisphere’s agriculture sector are conveyed at the Summit, allowing it a level of participation in keeping with its strategic role in Food Systems”.
The meeting of the IABA, IICA’s highest governing body, will occur on 1 and 2 September, bringing together the Ministers and Secretaries of Agriculture of the Americas and thus serving as a major forum for coordination and alignment in preparation for the global summit.
Villalobos, who was IICA’s Director General from 2010 to 2018, admitted that, “We are concerned that although it is the basis for food systems, agriculture has not been given a leading role in the summit. Without food, we cannot attain or achieve anything else, even as we recognize the importance of addressing environmental, health and nutrition-related issues. We cannot accept that they become the sole issues of the global agrifood trade or that they be used as an excuse to further punish the small farmer”.
“Nor can we neglect to guarantee access to food for those millions who are the poorest among us, while seeking to address the needs of consumers with extensive purchasing power”, he warned.
“Similarly, Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development remarked that, “Agrifood systems still face an uncertain future, but we know we must adopt measures to bring an end to the continued marginalization of the millions of producers and small farmers who remain poor”.
Villalobos explained that in Mexico, “We remain committed to the idea that the future of agriculture should be based on scientific knowledge, provided that it assists in reducing and not widening existing productivity gaps among different types of producers, regions and even countries. This will be Mexico’s stance at the Summit”.
In addition to Nobel Prize winner, Kremer, also present at the meeting were Miguel García-Winder, Mexico’s Ambassador to the FAO and himself a former IICA staff member; Beatriz Paredes, Mexican Senator and IICA Goodwill Ambassador; Muhammad Ibrahim, the Director General of CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center); and Julio Berdegué, FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, among others.