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With the belief that Argentina is one of the world’s few countries that can rise to challenge of feeding its population healthily while exporting food safety to other nations. Universidad Austral’s Agribusiness and Food Center (CEAg) joined FAUBA’s Agribusiness and Food Program and the Center for Research on Food Policies and Economics (CEPEA) to conduct an academic research study entitled, Eating Healthy and Exporting Food Safety to the World –Contributions for a National Food and Nutritional Safety Policy”.

“Argentina can feed its population in a healthy fashion and meeting a significant social demand, without enhancing and growing its export capabilities, even becoming a true food safety provider for the world at large.” This is one of this research study’s key findings.

This academic research was intended to merge issues such as adequate healthy eating levels for Argentina’s population and the agribusiness food sector, increasing the country’s exports. The most relevant contribution made by this study hinges on its proposed guidelines for a national food safety policy.

The key questions that served as a guide for this research included, Does Argentina have what it takes to guarantee its population’s full access to sufficient, healthy food, while providing foods and food safety to the rest of the world? What other experiences can serve as a model for Argentina, so that the country can guarantee domestic food safety and become an international food supplier?

To contribute a constructive outlook that addresses all the needs to be met in order to accomplish the paramount goal of ensuring Argentineans’ sufficient and healthy nutrition (especially for those who live in poverty) without discouraging production or compromising competitiveness, 11 guidelines were formulated to help public policy makers. These guidelines included:

  • Coordinating and orchestrating Food Safety Programs.
  • Leveraging opportunities to export foodstuffs to the world.
  • A new approach to the current Universal Child Allowance (AUH, for its Spanish acronym), viewing it as instrument to promote healthy eating.
  • Creating seamless Information Systems.
  • Developing and using monitoring and assessment tools.
  • Designing a communication strategy for Nutritional Education.
  • Designing a School Nutrition Policy.
  • Analyzing potential reductions to taxes on food.
  • Aligning agribusiness production policies with nutritional policies.

This research study finds that there is enough evidence to establish that diet quality and dietary environments constitute the key issue and challenge when it comes to food safety for the general population and the poor in particular. Against this backdrop, the strategies pursued by several nutritional programs and the AUH that have influenced demand and the restrictive interventions at the supply end do not seem to have addressed the quality issue. This study argues that addressing the quality issue in Food Safety policies implies a significant qualitative leap, a new generation of nutritional programs that would preserve and even enhance Argentina’s engagement in international food trade. Indeed, a better dietary quality would gradually lead to greater exporting balances. Everything indicates that, with a strategic vision in public policies, it would be possible for Argentina to both meet domestic demands and become a successful exporter.

RESEARCH FOCUS

This research study sought an overall approach to its topic, with all actors engaged making their specific contributions.

CEPEA’s Sergio Britos analyzed Argentineans’ current and ideal eating habits. Based on a benchmark basket of healthy foods, his analysis finds that average Argentine citizens’ current intake of sugars, meats, potato, and bread, among other products, proves excessive, while their diet shows deficiencies in rice, leguminous seeds, fresh vegetables, fruits and dairy products, among others.

In turn, Fernando Vilella, of UBA’s Agronomics School, contributed his knowledge and expertise on seizing food export opportunities for Argentina. To quantify these opportunities, he noted that, by 2030, in Asia alone, 900 to 1000 million people will need to import all of their daily foods.

As a result of the work carried out by Roberto Feeney, from Universidad Austral’s Agribusiness and Food Center, it was possible to establish how mucho it would cost for Argentina to subsidize –at the demand side rather than at the supply end, as it is done today– access to a basket of healthy foodstuff for the population segments that currently have no nutritional safety in this country. Depending on the subsidy scenario considered, it would cost between US$ 4.8 and 6.6 billion a year (a sum partially covered today by current nutritional safety programs) to meet the needs of 5.6 million people who are currently suffering nutritional safety to some extent.

This study has established that 58% of Argentina’s overall exports come from its agribusiness and food system. It also estimated how exporting balances would increase as a result of a healthier domestic diet supported by a consumption subsidy policy.

Findings presentation

At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, this research study’s key findings will be presented at Universidad Austral’s Buenos Aires Campus. At the same time, the research team will lecture on study findings and propositions for technical teams from Argentina’s political parties as well as other actors and institutions associated with these issues. A book will be published with this research, a number of future research avenues are already under consideration.

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