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By Hernán Pérez Zapata
A country that does not produce its food is condemned to be a slave to its suppliers. They will not be competitive.
Reliable proof that government agricultural policy leads us to the greatest catastrophe is the reduction of research and technology transfer to a minimum. Likewise, the abolition of the emphasis on commodities for our self-sufficient food security, to prioritize the exportable "tropical products" that the United States. can't produce cheap in temperate zone.
The privatization of ICA research and technology transfer, with the creation and action of Corpoica (Colombian Corporation for Agricultural Research) in the last 10 years, has changed the orientation of these activities.
30 years ago, at ICA, we were more than 7,000 civil servants, including 1,500 highly trained researchers. Today, there are 1,700 employees, with only 385 professionals in experimentation, in 28 centers and stations. All are pre-advised. The first layoffs were already made at the end of last year in Tibaitatá, the main national experimental center. In a few days it will be the same with 600 more.
While protecting salaries of $ 15 million for the CEO and $ 9.5 million for his advisors and assistant managers, the 383 experienced researchers earn just $ 2 million and the 1,200 workers who support research and technology transfer earn less than two monthly minimum wages. Against these last two sectors the labor massacre is prioritized.
Corpoica's programs emphasize export products such as tropical and forest fruits, cocoa, banana, African palm and yucca. The previous orientation in the ICA, since its founding in 1962, emphasized products of the national basic food diet. Now, these products have gone from the background, to their extinction. The cases of wheat, corn, beans, potatoes, rice, poultry and other livestock branches are concrete examples.
We import 1,200,000 tons of wheat annually. Transnational companies invade us with derivatives of cereal such as bread. More than 95% of our internal needs come from abroad. We bring 2,000,000 tons a year of corn, Colombia being one of the world centers of origin of the rich cereal. We bring more than 66% of our internal needs. We have the most advanced research contributions in Latin America, as well as abandoned genetic materials without transfer to producers. Of course, looted by US transnational entities.
We have come to import 7 million tons of food per year with the economic opening of the last 14 years. With the FTAA and / or bilateral free trade agreement, FTA, with the United States, they impose a goal of 0% tariff in 10 years. We will end up importing all food products highly subsidized and protected for more than 210 years by the empire. Our sovereignty and self-sufficient food security are hit with death.
The U.S. agriculture budget of US $ 180,000 million compared to Colombia's of only US $ 30 million, it is enough for 6,000 years in our country. And the research and development of US $ 1,700,000 million, compared to the US $ 30 million of the National System of Science and Technology (Colciencias-Corpoica-Universidades) would last about 57,000 years in Colombia. Thus, it is impossible to compete on equal terms, as Washington imposes on us, with the FTAA-FTA.
A country that does not produce its food is condemned to be a slave to its suppliers. They will not be competitive. We will not stock up. Therefore, the countryside and the country will fare much worse.
Research and the transfer of agricultural technology, abandoned by the State, with its anti-national agricultural policy, require adequate treatment, as supported by the workers and researchers of Corpoica, for the salvation of research and the transfer of technology, for the salvation of self-sufficient food security for all Colombians.
* By Hernán Pérez Zapata
President of the Colombian Association of Agricultural Engineers, ACIA.