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Rodolfo Zea

COLOMBIA - Agriculture

Rodolfo Zea

Minister of Agriculture,


Rodolfo Zea is an economist from the University of Los Andes, a specialist in international finance, with stock market, budget, and portfolio management studies from the Universidad de la Sabana and an MBA from Inalde Business School of the same university. He has a track record of more than 27 years in the public sector. He worked at the Territorial Development Finance Company, Findeter, for more than 24 years, holding positions such as commercial vice president, financial vice president, general secretary, and finally the presidency of the entity. In 2019, the government of President Duque appointed him president of Sociedad Fiduciaria de Desarrollo Agropecuario (Fiduagraria). He was appointed Minister of Agriculture in February 2020.

With agriculture set to become a key part of the country's non-mining exports, the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to provide incentives and support the sector to the fullest extent possible.

During the first trimester of 2021, non-mineral exports grew 14.3%. What explains the strength of the agriculture sector and the positive performance in exports?

The performance of the agribusiness sector has shown remarkable figures. In 2020, we reached the largest exports in history totalling USD7.856 billion. As of March 2021, agricultural exports represented 55% of the country’s non-mining energy exports, a growth of four percentage points compared to 2019. This is evidence of the strong government commitment to the agricultural sector and a strategy that supports the industry to become the main source of the development and growth for Colombian exports. The growth of the agricultural sector in the non-mining-energy export supply is mainly due to the sanitary diplomacy strategy promoted by President Duque. The strategy focuses on opening strategic markets for products that have the greatest growth potential and maintaining the conditions of markets that have already been conquered. During the government of President Duque, we have achieved 49 new admissibility permits for 34 products—15 agricultural products and 19 livestock products—in 24 countries.

What polices are there to support agriculture and agro-businesses in Colombia?

There are policy incentives for the development of the agro-business in Colombia, such as income tax exemption for companies that invest in the productivity of the agricultural sector. In addition, companies that invest in one of the 344 municipalities most affected by the conflict (ZOMAC) may enjoy tax incentives according the size of the company. Companies must have their main address and develop their entire activity within the ZOMAC. Colombia has also put in place special social and economic zones (ZESEs), a special tax regime to attract investment and employment generation in the departments and cities that have ZESE. The main economic activity of companies that can apply for the special tax regime should be the development of industrial, agricultural, and/or commercial activity. Finally, there are other incentives such as the Vallejo Plan that gives partial or total exemption of the import tariff and deferred payment of VAT in the import of capital goods and spare parts destined to produce goods for exports.

Which agricultural products pose interesting potential for commercial development in Colombia?

Colombia had made a definitive leap in the diversification of exports in products other than coffee, flowers, and bananas. In this sense, we are looking to expand and diversify our export offerings with non-traditional products such as beef, pork, and chicken; dairy and dairy products; aquaculture products; cocoa; and fruits such as sweet citrus, Tahiti lime, pineapple, pitahaya, mango, blueberries, passionfruit, and cape gooseberry, mainly. We have been reinforcing strategies with a focus on taking advantage of opportunities derived from trade agreements or trade opportunities with third countries primarily by our sanitary diplomacy strategy by prioritizing and searching for markets for non-traditional products. The obtained results show that we are on the right path. Colombia has the Global GAP certification for the certification of agricultural products, which constitutes a benchmark of Good Agricultural Practices that facilitate positioning in international markets.

What is the role of agriculture within the economic reactivation of Colombia?

The agricultural sector has been the motor of the economic reactivation and even during the most critical part of the pandemic. In 2020, the agricultural and agro-industrial sector made up 10.3% of the national GDP, the only sector with positive numbers in 2020 and continuing the trend in 2021. The sector also makes up 16% of national employment and represents 55% of the country’s non-mining energy exports, which positions it as one of the main growth engines and the clear commitment of the national government to diversify the productive export commitment. We will continue working for the development of our rural and agro-industrial sector, which is allowing us to translate these numbers into real income for the most vulnerable of the value chain, the small farmers.



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