Colombia’s Minister of Agriculture announced that the country needs to make better use of its agricultural potential as a means to reduce poverty, Colombian media reported on Monday.
Colombian Minister of Agriculture Ruben Dario Lizarralde met with the US ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, to discuss Free Trade Agreement (FTA) issues including improving access of Colombian agricultural products to the US market, according to Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper.
At the meeting in Bogota, Lizarralde told Whitaker that the Colombian government needs to “reap the benefits” offered by international markets for Colombia’s agricultural products, citing the US-Colombia FTA pact of 2012 as a “great opportunity.”
“We need to optimize the use of agricultural soils, as about 70% are wasted; it’s one way of reducing extreme poverty in the country. [It] opens the possibility of increasing exports per capita of agricultural products, which is very low in the country, and it is a way to eliminate illicit crops,” said Lizarralde.
Both parties agreed that they had failed to “make visible” the benefits of the FTA, and that the best way to overcome this is to market Colombian exports to the US and elsewhere through “production chains.”
According to El Espectador, Ambassador Whitaker expressed his commitment to make the necessary arrangements to move “expeditiously” on the matter. In addition, issues such as land policy, generating business opportunities, and economic growth for the agricultural sector were also analyzed for a post-conflict stage in Colombia.
Despite Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos‘ promise of increasing exports by 6% to the US as a result of the Free Trade Agreement, that number had actually decreased by 15.5% in 2013.