Agribusiness strangles Paraguay's shrinking rural population. - Vol. 26 Nbr. 38, October - October 2017 - NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs - Books and Journals - VLEX 704461137

Agribusiness strangles Paraguay's shrinking rural population.

Author:Gaudin, Andres
 
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Experts have denounced the rural development model that has been in place in Paraguay since the end of the 20th century--a model, based essentially on agribusiness, which eliminates the campesinos (agrarian workers) as the main actors on small farms and in the national economy (NotiSur Aug. 29, 2003, and May 27, 2016).

Both Miguel Lovera, an agronomist and ecologist, and Ramon Fogel, a sociologist, said that Paraguay lacks food security and food sovereignty and that campesinos and indigenous communities are experiencing hunger. Because production no longer meets local needs, Paraguay must import fruit, vegetables, and other crops and products that were traditionally produced in the country. The researchers, who see a conflict between agribusiness and family farms, with the state siding with large foreign producers, issued a serious warning: Paraguay faces an increasing possibility of a famine.

In just 13 years, the land earmarked for family farms shrank by half. The area used for production of cotton, peanuts, potatoes, cassava, peas, corn, pepper, carrots, and fruits decreased from nearly 700,000 hectares in 2002 to some 330,000 ha. in 2015. In the same period, the area used by agribusiness for soybeans, wheat, corn, sunflowers, sugar cane, and rice--in all cases with genetically modified seeds and an uncontrolled use of agrochemicals that contaminate the air, water, and soil--increased from 2.3 million to 5.4 million ha. While the country's soybean production grew from 6 million tons in 2007 to 9 million tons in 2015, Paraguay increased the value of vegetable and legume imports by about 300% and the value of fruit purchases by 412% in the decade between 2005 and 2015. These figures, released by the Central Bank, show the magnitude of the loss in food sovereignty, Lovera said in an interview published Aug. 8 on the ea.com.py website.

Monoculture harms crop diversity

Fogel agrees with Lovera that through the expansion of soybean monoculture, the population is deprived of the abundance and quality of the foods it has always counted on, and is forced to consume industrially-processed foods. This phenomenon, both scholars said, means that families must use a good part of their income to buy expensive food that, in many cases, is of questionable quality.

According to the agriculture and cattle ministry, the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia, Paraguay imports basic agricultural products that were traditionally grown at home. In 2015...

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