Food Coalition

Intra-regional trade and food safety standards

The global Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) COVID-19 response programme addresses intra-regional trade as one of its action points given the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 crisis on intra-regional and international commerce. The Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) exports have fallen by 30 percent interannually in April. Although the agri-food exports have grown interannually 8.5 percent in April 2020 in 14 Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries, these export earnings have been unequally distributed among agricultural producers and subsectors. The agribusinesses that export industrial crops have registered a significant increase. However, smallholders producing perishable food have suffered from lower demand, less liquidity, and the shift of customers’ diet to staple low-cost meals. 

Despite the LAC’s profile as a food exporter, the regional trade integration, that can mitigate losses due to lower demand in other regions, has been weak in volumes and value. In 2019, already before the crisis, only 13 percent of regional agri-food exports were intra-regional and these were dominated by large agribusinesses. The pandemic has also exposed underlying structural issues, such as food halted in the ports or delays in customs. These shortcomings point to the fragility of intra-regional trade infrastructure.

The sub-region of South America, one of the most important net exporters of agri-food products, produces 74 percent of the total LAC region agri-food exports, but only 14 percent are destined for intra-regional markets (within South America and with other subregions of LAC region). It has registered a stable, but not dynamic growth of its agricultural export surplus. Despite the record harvest in 2019-2020 season, restrictions adopted due to the pandemic have negatively affected trade, in particular when it comes to perishable products often produced by smallholders, leading to lack of liquidity and potential informalization.

Priority Areas of work: Trade and Food Safety Standards
SDG: 2. Zero Hunger, 3. Good Health and Well-being, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, 10. Reduced Inequality, 14. Life Below Water, 17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Level: Regional
Region: Latin America and the Caribbean
Country: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay
Budget: USD 8 million


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