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A global agricultural powerhouse

Article - September 8, 2011
Over the past decade, joint public-private efforts to build a thriving agro-industry, and complementary trade policies that have given Chile’s agricultural sector access to more markets than those of any other country, have resulted in the creation of a major food-producing and exporting nation
JOSE ANTONIO GALILEA, MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE
Chile is said to be one of the world’s naturally cleanest environments for food production. Some 2,700 miles long and uniquely narrow (average width is just 109 miles), its remoteness and extraordinarily diverse geography not only allow it to produce a wide range of products in exceptionally fertile soils, but also free it from diseases and parasites common to most other agricultural areas, such as the fruit fly.

Registering annual export growth of 10% over the past decade, which makes it the world’s fastest growing food exporter, Chile today supplies 174 countries with premium fresh and processed food products. It is currently the world’s largest exporter of fresh grapes (controlling 29% of the global market), plums (23%), and fresh fish fillets (22%); second-largest exporter of frozen Pacific salmon (30%), avocados (16%), and other frozen fish (10%); and the fifth-largest exporter of wine (5%) and frozen pork meat (5%).

Chilean farmers use significantly less agro-chemicals than most food producing regions due to the country’s uniquely isolated location, and Chilean foods consistently receive international awards for their quality.
‘OUR AGRO-INDUSTRY IS NO LONGER CONTENT WITH THE MERE EXPORT OF NATURAL RESOURCES. THERE IS A NEW DYNAMISM WITH REGARDS TO ADDING VALUE TO THESE PRODUCTS, AND MOVING BEYOND BEING JUST A COMMODITIES EXPORTER. 
THE GOVERNMENT AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR ARE ALSO LOOKING TO DEVELOP NON-TRADITIONAL EXPORTS WITH POTENTIAL, SUCH AS DAIRY PRODUCTS’

JOSE ANTONIO GALILEA,
Minister of Agriculture



Combined food industry exports now total over US$10.5 billion per year, representing some 24% of GDP. The agriculture and fishing sectors currently employ over a million workers, or some 20% of the workforce. By 2030, the agro-industry is expected to account for more than 35% of total GDP, and employ one in three workers in the country.

The Chilean government is actively involved in the development of the sector, and has launched the Chile World-Class Food Producer campaign, which aims to position Chile as a global leader in food exports (it now holds 17th position).

Minister of Agriculture Jose Antonio Galilea says that the convergence between the goals of the agro-industry and those of the government has created a “very promising synthesis.”

He adds that Chile’s free trade agreements allow companies to redirect their exports according to market fluctuations, which has been a big advantage, and that the growth of the country’s value-added exports has been a key factor in the industry’s success.

“Our agro-industry is no longer content with the mere export of natural resources. There is a new dynamism with regards to adding value to these products, and moving beyond being just a commodities exporter,” he comments.

Moreover, according to Mr. Galilea, the Chilean government and the private sector are also looking to further develop non-traditional exports with potential, such as dairy products.

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