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Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Agriculture Minister Poveda

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DE RUEHQT #0935/01 2732020
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 292020Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9440
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 7763
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 3201
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP LIMA 2823
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3825
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 0609

UNCLAS QUITO 000935

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

TREASURY FOR MEWENS
USDA/FAS/OFSO FOR HMAGINNIS
USDA/FAS/OCRA FOR ASLUSHER AND CMARSTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD EC
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH AGRICULTURE MINISTER POVEDA

1. (U) Summary: The Ambassador paid a courtesy call on Agriculture
Minister Walter Poveda on September 15. Also in the meeting were
Agriculture Vice Minister Cevallos, Embassy DCM, and Agricultural
Attache Gonzalez. Poveda emphasized the need for international
cooperation and sought renewal of USDA's food aid program for
Ecuador, which would help with the Correa administration's priority
of assisting poor rural farmers. He also sought increased U.S.
investment and USG assistance in new agricultural projects for the
export market. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Minister Poveda began by briefly discussing the Correa
administration's agriculture priorities, which included refocusing
attention and resources on impoverished rural areas. He claimed
that his office was more focused on an agricultural plan than his
predecessors, and that he wanted to reactivate international
cooperation and highlight the benefits of this cooperation for
Ecuadorian farmers. Poveda added that market forces had been
hurting the small farmer, as had the competition from free imports
and exports, which is why the GOE had begun implementing price
control policies. He commented that current ministers have greater
interaction with President Correa than in the past, and that this
increased communication was being reflected in more successful and
task-oriented ministries.

Minister Seeks Extension of Food Aid Program...
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (SBU) The Minister's first request was for an extension of
USDA's PL-480 food aid program (which will expire in December 2009).
Alternatively, he asked us to develop another program to continue
USG assistance and collaboration with the Agriculture Ministry. He
noted that PL-480 had been helpful in stimulating the agricultural
sector and that he did not want to lose its cooperative
opportunities and funding. With the Ministry's new focus on the
poor small farmer, he believed it was an ideal time to restart the
program. The Ambassador explained that such a decision would fall
to Congress and that it was highly unlikely the program would be
extended. The Agricultural Attache commented that FAS would try to
use other USDA funds and programs to continue collaborative and
capacity building projects in Ecuador's agriculture sector.

...And U.S. Investment, Assistance in Export Projects
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (SBU) Another priority for the Ministry was to attract increased
U.S. investment. The Minister noted the wide variety of raw
materials produced by Ecuador - such as palm oil, cacao, and the
potential for cotton production - and asked for USG assistance in
publicizing this information as well as attracting U.S. investors.
He commented on the potential for producing value-added products in
Ecuador, with the assistance of the USG and U.S. investors.
Mentioning a new 70,000 hectare agricultural area that the MAG wants
to develop for high-value agricultural exports to the United States,
Poveda also requested USG assistance with identifying potential
products, markets, importers, and quality standards. He noted that
Ecuador's agricultural production capacity far exceeded its
consumption and, with the current instability in Africa and safety
issues in China, that it was positioned to become a premier
agricultural supplier to the United States. The Ambassador noted
that perception was critical to U.S. investors, so Ecuadorian laws
and policies must be clearly seen as encouraging and protecting
foreign investment.

5. (U) Minister Poveda highlighted Ecuador's need for
higher-quality, higher-production "certified" seed programs, as well
as on-site agricultural training for farmers (including agricultural
schools and capacity building programs). The Vice Minister and the
Agricultural Attache agreed to continue discussions on possible
cooperation in this area. Poveda also requested cooperation and
assistance for processing potatoes to create alcohol, which could be
used as fuel and thus help support potato prices. Finally, he asked
for technical assistance to begin reforestation projects. Ecuador
aims to plant one million hectares of forest (for sustainable wood
production and environmental protection) within the next 20 years.


6. (SBU) Comment: The meeting was friendly and collaborative, with
a useful exchange on a number of potential cooperation projects.
USDA's PL-480 food aid program for Ecuador is unlikely to be
renewed, since Ecuador's level of development has increased beyond
the levels of the program. However, Foreign Agricultural Service
staff plan to continue working on technical capacity building
initiatives in Ecuador.

HODGES

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