Meeting in videoconference on Monday (13), ministers and secretaries of Agriculture of countries of the Americas stressed the need to avoid unnecessary trade barriers between countries that could harm agriculture at this time of pandemic. The Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Tereza Cristina, said Brazil is "absolutely convinced" of the need to preserve the scientific principle in regulating international trade in inputs and food.
"We need to distinguish the necessary effort that we all make to ensure the protection of our populations, taking the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, from measures without any scientific basis that can generate insecurity, uncertainty and misinformation", noting that there is no scientific evidence to support the thesis that the virus spreads through food.
The 2nd Hemispheric Meeting of Ministers and Secretaries of Agriculture was promoted by the Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico, Víctor Villalobos, co-organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Tereza Cristina also said that one of the effects of the current pandemic should be the increase in discussions on sustainability and health, which could bring more rigor regarding technical, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, in addition to increasing the requirements of certification, traceability, labeling, packaging of products and private requirements.
"Thus, we must be very careful with practices adopted by some countries, perhaps even well-intentioned, but with wide harmful effects. As some countries abandon science-based principles in regulating food production and trade, not only is fair trade penalized, but the entire innovation ecosystem that would allow us to feed more people with fewer resources is impaired," the Brazilian minister said.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressed concern about measures imposed by some countries that restrict imports, such as the requirement for Covid testing at ports of entry and "other measures that do not agree with the known science on the subject."
"We are concerned about policies imposed around the world that could be negative for trade. All measures must be based on science, both now and after the pandemic. People cannot contract Covid-19 from food packaging or food, since science does not indicate that this is possible," he said.
Perdue also highlighted u.S. measures to ensure trade flow despite the pandemic. "Our farmers are making great efforts to maintain their operations and the supply of healthy food. We were very affected at the beginning of the pandemic with the closure of restaurants, hotels, it was necessary to redirect production", he said.
Canada's Agriculture Minister Marie Claude Bibeau said open and transparent trade is key to maintaining a stable supply chain. "We believe that unnecessary constraints, as well as increased rates, taxes and other barriers, should be avoided. This could increase the price of food, causing food shortages and waste, with very negative consequences for farmers," he said.
At the end of the meeting, ministers approved a joint position reaffirming their intention to promote food and nutritional security of populations during the pandemic. The document reiterates the importance of cooperation between countries, especially on issues affecting food production.
IICA Director General Manuel Otero congratulated Brazil on the growth in exports, even during the pandemic. He said the pandemic increased vulnerability of lower-income sectors and called on the Union of the Americas to address "Covid-free" certification, which could bring new health barriers.
The aim of the virtual meeting is to maintain a permanent dialogue between representatives that favors international trade in agricultural food and raw materials, agricultural health and food safety, continuity of supply in national markets and the necessary support through policies aimed at small and medium-sized producers, as engines for the resumption of the economy after the pandemic.
The ministers and secretaries of Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic and Chile also participated in the meeting.