A business forum that took place this last Wednesday 26th of July, recommended investing in agricultural modernization in Panama, as the most viable way to strengthen this decayed sector which has been stagnant since years ago, contributing less than 3% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This subject, together with the Public-Private Partnerships to boost growth, was discussed in a colloquium held within the framework of the First Business Summit, organized by the National Council of Private Enterprise of Panama (CONEP).
In the talk, it was highlighted, among other points, that the reactivation of the field, which during the previous Administration generated violent manifestations coming from the agricultural producers in rejection of excessive imports, it’s achieved by giving a good application to the incentive policy for this sector.
The businessman Alan Winstead said that it is paramount to start with strong practical education at technical schools. That teaches to operate a field with technology, as well as to take the incentives towards “the modernization of agriculture”.
Winstead, an innovative farmer and president of Simply Natural Farms, an organic fruit nursery located in the central province of Coclé and considered the largest in Central America, said that it should also be invested to have the right human resources to work in a modern farm.
“The policies for incentives should support farmers on adopting the technology, to be competitive and continuously shifting the incentives towards modernization of agriculture,” he said.
In that same context, Winstead emphasized that his project, Simply Natural Farms they have managed to harvest fruits into 20,000 hectares all “with knowledge and technology”, which is exported to the international market since the place is small.
However, Winstead said that although Panama does not have a large market, it does have an advantage regarding exports and that is the country’s logistics platform.
Other entrepreneurs who participated in the colloquium, linked to sustainable milk production and rice, agreed that the lack of technology in agriculture is another limitation to increase productivity.
Panamanian Vice Minister of Agriculture, Carlos Rognoni, said that the Government, through the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) “is here to push” and reactivate agriculture, for which, he said, you can count on Public-Private Partnerships (APP), a topic addressed at the forum.
“What we will try to do at MIDA is prevent stagnation as much as possible, so it is up to you (as a private company) to have our support in technology,” said Rognoni.
Rognoni told Efe that the current administration of President Laurentino Cortizo, who took office last July 1, is involved in the reactivation of agriculture and is working on a 20-year long-term policy.
“What we want is to strengthen the livestock sector, agriculture, and agribusiness,” said Rognoni.
Cortizo’s idea of reviving the economy contemplates giving impetus to the countryside, the construction sector, and public-private associations, where the latter, as stated in the forum, will receive infrastructure improvements (roads) but these are long term objectives because building them could take 3 to 5 years.
Eloy Fisher, general secretary of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), said at the forum that APPs minimize state risks to open a pathway to the private sector.