This morning we met with three gentlemen from UPROA - Union of Blueberry Producers. (www.urpoauruguay.com) This does not truly translate the way it does in the US. The Union is a growers group. Growers getting together to position themselves to lobby and negotiate with the government, exporters and suppliers. Blueberry growers here are at a critical junction in deciding how to grow their business and profits. Currently, they market their fruit either through a broker or through an orginzation called Empretec (www.empretecuruguay.com). Empretec represents small producers all over the world to make market distribution and allows the growers more control over their products. Many of the blueberry farmers are secondary farmers, meaning they have full time jobs but have invested in blueberries for economic reasons. They are being encourage by the government to find new technologies and to partner with other fruit producers. However, all infastructure - buildings, processing, must be privately funded. They are a "young" industry with only 6 years of production behind them but are anxious for US partners to share best practices with.
In the afternoon, we met with the Ministery of Agricultural's Office of Program and Policy. We spent time with the Director Carlos Paolino. Carlos outlined the current government's agenda to create a program to address the needs of the rural population. The Ministery of Agriculture is working very closely with the Social Ministery. Through education and the importance of agricultural in the economy, the government hopes to reduce the poverty level. In 2002, those below the poverty level represented 35% of the population. Today it is 13-14% below the poverty level. They would like that number to be in the single digits. The first steps in this goal is through education - the Ceibal Plan - one computer for every child. They want to bring better education to all and provide them with training and skills. They are hoping these skills will translate to jobs in private enterprise or their own production. It is foreseeable that their will be a new position created to an Agricultrual Commercial Ambassador to translate agricultural to economic improvement.
Another initiative under way is to gather statistical data on current production, methodolies, GPS imaging and form a plan. They feel this information will help them form a better commercialization strategy.
Lastly, this afternoon we had an opportunity to have coffee with Fellow Pablo Fernandez. He is a very interesting man who 3 years ago started his own marketing firm. Chuck was thrilled that Pablo brought us to the Golf Club that is, honestly, in the middle of Montevideo overlooking the Rio de la Plata. Unfortunately, no time for golf today!