The Competitiveness Center of the Western Region of Panama (Centro de Competitividad de la Región Occidental de Panamá or CECOM-RO) is a private organization that seeks to boost the competitiveness of the western region of the country, creating synergies between the public and private sectors, attracting new investment, and setting up a competitive infrastructure for the development of several segments of the national economy, with a particular focus on agriculture. The center is promoted by the Chamber of Commerce of Chiriquí¬ (Cámara de Comercio, Industrias y Agricultura de Chiriquí and foundacií²n Pro-Chiriqui APEDE,) and is made up of a group of entrepreneurs that are focusing their operations in Chiriquí¬. The Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF), the Development Bank of Latin America, along with Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture are other important promoters of all the initiatives related to CECOM-RO. The center is currently promoting “Vision Chiriquí¬ 2025,“ developing promotional, technical, and financial activities through the entire western region of Panama.
The Agro-Master Plan for the development of the western region will start in March 2017 and is envisioned to double the agricultural output of the regions of Chiriquí¬, Bocas del Toro, and Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. CAF and Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina have recently agreed to finance the project, lending USD155 million over three phases: USD30 million will be allocated for 2017, USD45 million in 2018, and the remaining will be split in the following years. This year, more than 500 producers will be financed and the financing activity is targeted to reach 4,500 producers in the next four years. In order to develop the master plan for the development of the western region, the private sector will invest around USD350 million in a strategic alliance with the public sector. The funding is expected to provide producers with investment projects that will increase productivity and the efficiency of the value chains of the sector in products that are in high demand by consumers.
The western region of Panama has the potential to develop into a hub for the development of the agro-industrial sector, not only in Panama but also in Central America. In 2016 Nestlí¨ started investing in the region, seeding more than 100ha with tomatoes and the multinational company plans to seed an additional 400ha by the end of 2017. Grupo G. Inversiones from Nicaragua plans to seed 10,000ha with maní¬, meeting both the local and regional demand for this product.
The master plan will be initially characterized by the activation of different programs focusing on sanitation, the installation of modern laboratories to boost R&D to be applied both to existing and potentials crops, training the local workforce, irrigation and logistics projects, and the development of local public institutions. When successfully developed, the master plan will allow the western region to produce key products with significant export potential such as milk and dairy products, oil palm, vegetable, coffee, bananas, cocoa, tubers, and rice. The total production of these goods is targeted to reach USD500 million, or revenues of USD40 million annually, and the creation of more than 30,000 jobs.
Moreover, with the vision of turning the country into an agro hub, the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP) has signed a USD100 million agreement with CAF to determine the feasibility of building an intermodal dry canal between Puerto Armuelles in Chiriquí¬ in the Pacific and a complementary port in Bocas del Toro in the Atlantic. When fully implemented, these initiatives promise to dramatically increase the quality of life in the western region and boost its economic competitiveness in the country.