The Business Year

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Javier Valdés

Latinamerica North Head, Syngenta

Adriana Luna

General Director, Tierra de Monte

As one of the country's most important sectors, Mexican agriculture relies on the best R&D and brightest solutions to ensure that consumers on both sides of the border get what they need.

What trends do you see in the Mexican agricultural market?

JAVIER VALDÉS We have a massive opportunity in the seed area and are investing heavily. Globally, we occupy third place in the seed business; however, the company seeks to reach second place. For this, we will make certain acquisitions. For example, we acquired Nidera Seeds, an Argentinian company with a presence in Brazil and Argentina, and we are looking for other portfolios that could help us strengthen the seed business. In Mexico, we are strong in vegetables; we are leaders in certain vegetable crops such as watermelons, sweet corn, peppers, tomato specialties, and more. In terms of crop protection, every year we launch at least one or two new technologies. As the world’s leading innovation and development company, Syngenta invests about USD1.4 billion in R&D every year. We are leaders in crop protection, and our strategy is focused on maintaining that leadership.

ADRIANA LUNA Mexico is the fourth-largest producer of organic crops globally. Traditionally, the most important crops have been coffee and cocoa, but now we produce strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries as well as avocados mainly for export. The impact of this sector is so important that, in 2017, avocados alone brought more money to Mexico than oil, and today it is a major economic force in the country, even greater than tourism or immigrant remittances. We are doing well, but the next step and biggest challenge of organic agriculture is to make it accessible for everyone rather than merely a luxury item. At Tierra de Monte, we are working toward that goal. One of the main challenges is to align all the incentives in this direction. If we start thinking in that way, start-ups, the government, and producers can achieve real food sovereignty through organic agriculture. We collaborate with some branches of the Ministry of Agriculture and other institutions precisely to gather information on how to make organic agriculture the cheapest, most productive, and profitable way of cultivating.

What is your outlook for the sector and plans for the near future?

JV We touch on three aspects of sustainability during our work in the field. One is environmental sustainability; we encourage agricultural practices that maintain fertile soil for the next 500-1,000 years. We look for technologies that allow farmers to take care of the soil and maintain a good level of biodiversity. Another is economic sustainability, because farmers must have the resources to implement the technology. We develop technologies that are applicable and economically viable for the farmer and that bring returns on investment. The third is social. We seek agricultural activity that is attractive to new generations. With digital agriculture, we are making changes in farming patterns are sustainable and allow a person to support a family. We focus on the return on investment and make the activity profitable from a social point of view as well. Our sustainability program and the Good Growth Plan cover these three aspects over six pillars to contribute to bringing more sustainable agriculture to Mexico and the world. For 2018, we will definitely exceed USD30 billion in exports and want to continue playing an important role in ensuring that farmers maintain the quality standards of the countries that purchase the harvest. We will continue to develop and invest in technologies so farmers can develop the crops that consumers want and accompany the changes of cultivation patterns to boost their profits.

AL We want to consolidate our presence on the Pacific coast. Thus far, we are in nine states: Baja California Sur, Baja California, Sinaloa, Sonora, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Veracruz, and Chiapas. In these we are working hard with berries and avocados. We want to consolidate these and other projects, such as the rehabilitation of old avocado orchards. Currently, we are working with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center to make the use of fertilizers more efficient and cheaper. The idea is to implement a management system that can reduce chemical fertilization by at least 95%. It does not seek to make it organic but to make production more efficient and profitable by reducing costs. In 2018, we will finish the evaluation period. Our goal is to collaborate in making products—especially corn—safer and cheaper for most of our population. The diet of the Mexican culture is based mainly on this crop, so if we can improve its quality and productivity and the financial security of producers, this will benefit the vast majority of our people. That is one of the goals for the year.



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