Panama’s agrifood sector has faced challenges in recent years due to insufficient investment in agricultural productivity, dependence on food imports, low levels of value addition, and high levels of subsidies for agricultural production.
To address these challenges, Panama proudly established new policies in January 2023 to foster agricultural productivity and food security. Panama’s State Agrifood Policy Act (PADE) guarantees the human right to food and supports farmers and the production sector with new policies and more targeted investments. The law was ratified by President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen during the 62nd Tourism and Agricultural Fair of San Sebastián de Ocú in the Panamanian province of Herrera.
PADE is the result of a two-year discussion process with Panama’s public and private sectors. It creates the conditions for the country’s people to access healthy and nutritious food at affordable prices. In addition, the law favors the competitiveness of agriculture, focusing on the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of food production and the well-being of rural people. The law establishes four areas of structural reforms: reform of agrotechnology use and production value chains; agrifood education reform; legal framework reform; and reform of rural welfare for families.
The PADE law launched a portfolio of investment projects valued at $1.2 billion over ten years, with projects focused on the technological transformation of agriculture. Each of the public agricultural institutions will execute these public investment projects under the coordination of the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA), the governing body of Panama’s agricultural sector. Among these institutions are the University of Panama, the National Institute of Agriculture, the National Secretariat of Science and Technology (SENACYT), state banks (BDA and BANCONAL), the Institute of Agricultural Insurance (ISA), and the Institute of Agricultural Research of Panama (IDIAP), among others. These public investments are expected to leverage additional private investments of an estimated $20 billion over ten years. This represents a 40 percent increase in investment for 18 priority agricultural products and, ultimately, increased opportunities for improving farmer access to the tools they need to grow a bountiful harvest in the context in which they work.
One of the investment projects, for example, is the “Protected Horticulture” project, which improves family horticultural operations in controlled environments such as greenhouses, as well as through technological innovations that can reduce labor in extreme heat and reduce applications of pesticides. Another project aims to scale up the use of iron-biofortified bean seeds and the development of early warning systems to alert potato disease onset. In addition to the focus on family farming using advanced agrotechnologies, the PADE prioritizes initiatives that aim to reduce agriculture’s environmental impact, decrease greenhouse gasses, and conserve water. The law also enforces the establishment of agriculture export hubs to streamline trade and export of agrifood products, especially enhancing the ability of family farmers to participate in more trade and export opportunities.
Components of the PADE include new investments in agrotechnology that will attract and retain younger generations to work in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Ultimately, its launch and establishment fosters an enabling environment for sustainable and productive agriculture and affirms agriculture’s role as an engine of Panama’s economic and social development. Strengthening the enabling environment will catalyze Panama’s potential to ensure its farmers have the tools they need to grow the food communities need.