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Colombia: Promotion plan seeks to give greater value to fruits and vegetables

While Free Trade Agreements offer fruit and vegetable producers an enormous chance to conquer foreign markets, reaching them is impossible without preparation. Additionally, there is also the need to be competitive, as with such agreements in place, competition becomes fierce.

This is the dilemma that growers are facing in the midst of problems such as higher imports, smuggling and illegal fruit and vegetable trade.

"A first step towards this objective has been given by the sector, with the National Fruit & Vegetable Promotion Plan, which seeks to support productivity and competitiveness, including markets such as medicinal plants, herbs and spices.

The plan will become effective once it is approved, possibly in late September, by the National Fruit & Vegetable Promotion Fund, as the Ministry of Agriculture has already given the nod.

According to the national manager of the Fruit and Vegetables Association of Colombia (Asohofrucol), Álvaro Palacio, this is the route to be taken for the next 10 years (2012-2020) and just in 2013 it will involve a $13,000 million investment.

The main goals of the initiative are promoting the sector, expanding the cultivated areas and increasing productivity. According to figures from Asohofrucol, the performance per hectare is of 8.5 tonnes on average, when it should be of 12. The plan reaches all 22 producing departments and deals with topics such as the specialisation of the production by regions, access to soft loans, implementation of technology transfer services, technical assistance, human resources training and improvement of the sanitary status. Palacio added that he seeks to consolidate partnerships and to promote production and the use of plant materials registered by the ICA.

"These factors should bring us value added, and the idea is to promote fruit and vegetable production with environmentally friendly systems and risk management against climate changes," he pointed out. Another goal is to enter national and international markets with differentiated products, increasing consumption and the volume of Para fiscal contributions. In Colombia there are around 940,000 hectares of fruits and vegetables with a production of 10.3 million tonnes, including bananas, which are cultivated like a vegetable.

The growth experienced in the fruit and vegetables sector has been of 1.2% annually, according to figures from Asohofrucol. At least 80 fruit and vegetable species from the 175 that there are in the whole country are developed here. One of the challenges of the sector, without a doubt, is to increase consumption per capita in Colombia. Nowadays it is of 190 grams daily, but it should be of 400, assures the union. Imports of such food items amount to 294,000 tonnes per year, which could easily be cultivated in the country. The sector suffers due to illegal activities and smuggling.

Source: Larepublica

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