Panama City, 29 May 2023 (IICA). Regional agriculture authorities and researchers meeting in Panama agreed that bioinputs are a tool to boost sustainable productivity in agriculture in the Americas, given that they contribute to overall health, generate new economic opportunities in rural areas, as well as increase decarbonization, environmental sustainability and climate resilience.
The first Pan-American Bioinputs Forum: Perspectives and Opportunities for a Growing Subsector took place in the Panamanian capital, to address the challenges and benefits of biological raw materials, in view of the need to create more sustainable agrifood systems in the Americas, equipped to produce more and better food with more limited resources.
The meeting was organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology (FONTAGRO, which is sponsored by IICA and IDB) and the Adapted Agroforestry Systems for the Central American Dry Corridor project (AGRO- INNOVA, funded by the European Union and implemented by IICA).
Participants at the opening ceremony included Alexis Pineda, Panamanian Deputy Minister of Agricultural Development; Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA; Adolfo Campos, Head of the Political and Press Section of the EU Delegation to Panama; Germán Zappani, Head of Operations of the IDB Office in Panama; Adoniram Sánchez, FAO Subregional Coordinator; Arnulfo Gutiérrez, Director General of Panama’s Institute for Agricultural Innovation and President of FONTAGRO; Eugenia Saini, Executive Secretary of FONTAGRO; and Gerardo Escudero, IICA Representative in Panama.
According to Deputy Minister Pineda, “Bioinput use continues to trend upward in response to the high costs of agricultural chemicals and their impact on public health and on environment-, climate- and safety-related trade requirements imposed by countries”.
The Panamanian official also maintained that, “The outcome of this forum will enable Latin American and Caribbean countries to provide decision makers with technical and scientific elements to create public policies that will reduce uncertainty surrounding the supply, as well as the risks posed by the use of agrochemicals”.
The keynote address was given by Mark Trimmer, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Dunham Trimmer, a company specializing in the bioinput market. He explained that these products are one of the bioeconomy pathways enjoying the most growth and an area in which Latin America and the Caribbean stands to be a leading international player.
Trimmer confirmed that, “Bioinput use is on the rise at annual rates of close to 13% for biocontrol agents, biostimulants and biofertilizers, far outpacing growth rates in traditional agriculture. Specifically, biocontrol agents represent 60% of the total bioinput market. In turn, LAC biocontrol production is valued at USD 1.231 billion or almost 20% of the total, making the region the third largest producer in the world and the one with the highest growth rates.
He explained that by 2029 Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to have cornered 29% of the total biocontrol market, making it the leading region in the global market, ahead of the United States and Canada.
Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA, explained that, “In our region, factors such as the high price of chemical fertilizers, supply chain disruptions, trade tariffs and the need to create agrifood systems with a lower environmental footprint, have driven the demand for and use of bioinputs. Moreover, the One Health approach and the need to balance productivity and environmental sustainability have made bioinputs a strategic alternative”.
Adolfo Campos, representing the EU, pointed out that bioinput production supports organic agriculture, enabling reduced dependence on external inputs and assisting in creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture sector.
“During 2022, the sector experienced a sharp rise in the costs of fertilizers, which affected food prices. Therefore, the EU is aiming to strengthen capacities to formulate and produce bioinputs, as an alternative to improve the quality of crops and to provide a more effective response to pest incursions”, he added.
Participants in the meeting agreed that the war in the Ukraine had triggered an increase in the price of fertilizers and their shortage in the market. Therefore, the discussions in the forum would be extremely important in the search for alternatives for bioinput production.
The IDB’s Germán Zappani remarked that, “The IDB Group is here to participate as a co-organizer of this first Pan-American Bioinput Forum, as we understand the growing importance of bioinputs in Latin America and the Caribbean, and their potential to offer a solution to the major economic, environmental and trade challenges that the agriculture sector faces. Support for bioinput development also furthers our objectives in terms of fostering food security, one of the most pressing challenges affecting the region”.
In addressing the meeting, the FAO’s Adoniram Sánchez emphasized that, “Our aim is to contribute to building agrifood systems that can satisfy the demand for food, without endangering the health of our planet. This forum marks an important step on this path, providing specific recommendations, based on a detailed analysis of the use of and potential for investment in bioinputs in the region”.
Arnulfo Gutiérrez, Director General of Panama’s Institute for Agricultural Innovation and President of FONTAGRO, spoke of “the pressing need to work together to develop new bioinput technologies, as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative for agrifood systems. Scientific, technological and innovation institutions in the region can make a truly vital contribution to developing technologies based on local biodiversity. Moreover, FONTAGRO’s scientific and technological innovation networks provide an effective way to achieve this objective”.
The participants in the forum agreed that Latin America and the Caribbean has certain comparative advantages in promoting bioinputs as a strategic technology for agricultural transformation, but their actual use will require countries to make an effort to promote science, technology and innovation; to formulate and implement regulations; to facilitate the implementation of the appropriate financial instruments and to enable market promotion and production investment.