Paraguay: River transportation key to business development
Sebastián Brizuela Muñoz was interviewed by Peter Tase, Spero's Latin America analyst for business and diplomatic affairs. Brizuela tells Tase in the interview that Paraguay, long an agricultural giant, is poised for a boom in food processing, as well as hydroelectric power.
Brizuela has long experience in the agricultural sector, as well as shipping and telecommunications. Born in Resistencia, a city in the Chaco province of northern Argentina in 1980, Brizuela completed high school in Paraguay. He later returned to Resistencia where he completed university studies in Psychology and Education. In 2006, he returned to Paraguay where he began working for Aeromar International, specializing in Logistical Operations.
Brizuela was also very active in other companies such as Sudatlatica and currently is a member of the executive team of Vallcan Logistics S.A. and is the Executive Director of Revista Digital Logistica Paraguay. Sebastian is executive director of Semp.co, a 2.0 political consultancy that promotes through the internet all stages of political marketing, graphic design, web programing and social media operators.
Brizuela is a member of a group of young business leaders who support professional and academic training for young people. He is interested in new trends in international commerce, global communications, trade logistics in South America. He also does research on water transportation and communications infrastructure.
Peter Tase: What are the major products that Paraguay is exporting to the region and the rest of the world?
Sebastian Brizuela: Paraguay, has been primarily an agricultural country, exporting a great amount of unprocessed agricultural products. In this sector, soy bean production has a large portion especially in the recent years in which soybean oil is being manufactured in our country. Beef exports and its derivatives also have a considerable contribution in generating revenue, almost at the same levels as exports of soy beans. Other products in the national exports’ list are textile products and apparel manufacturing. Wheat, corn, rice, fruits and vegetables, leather, organic sugar, are leading Paraguay’s exports in the region and the world. At the same time stevia or Ka’ȃ He’ȇ is clearly considered as a product with a growing potential in Paraguay’s list of exported commodities, as well as the introduction in international markets of native Paraguayan medicinal plants, are considered to be vital for our national economy, they are the green treasure of our agriculture.
Peter Tase: How would you describe the present micro and macro-economic situation in Paraguay, what are some of the financial reforms that Asuncion has implemented towards improving the level of development in Paraguay?
SB: Paraguay is a country of great opportunities and an ideal place to establish foreign investment projects and its open economy is friendly to international entrepreneurs; not only from its innovative perception, but also from a myriad of advantages and benefits our country offers to potential entrepreneurs. Foreign Investments are extremely important towards consolidating sustainable development in Paraguay, considered to be a premier nation that exports agricultural and organic food products. The evidence of such a dynamic evolution is reflected in the long list of agricultural products exported in the first three months of 2013, reaching over USD 3.1 Billion.
In the first place are the soy bean sector, grain, oil and wheat, with USD 1.48 Billion; in the second place is Electrical Energy, with USD 729 Million; and the third most important commodity is organic beef exports, reaching a total of USD 446 Million. Other products are: Textiles, Clothes and shoes factories, Leather, Organic Sugar, stevia, have generated over USD 257 Million.
Exports of cereals such as grain, rice and maize (corn), have generated over USD 226 Million, just in the period of January-April, 2013. This sector has experienced a significant growth if compared with the same time last year.
Paraguayan beef is a successful exports product – model, while the excellent performance of the agro-industrial sectors, renewable energy and industry, contribute to the consolidation and unprecedented economic growth of Paraguay in Latin America.
Another positive aspect is the momentum that has received the modernization of transportation services which make our national economy more dynamic and agile. The National Logistical Plan, implemented by the Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC) and the National Agency of Export and Imports (REDIEX) an agency under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, are responding to a process that prioritizes competitiveness and ensures consistency and responsibility in the executive roles of the supply chain.
PT: We know that Paraguay has rivers that reach more than 4500 km long, but only the Parana, Paraguay, and Tebicuary rivers are navigable. What are some of the recommendations that you and your colleagues have towards improving the river transportation routes in Paraguay while keeping in mind that your country is a Mediterranean-climate nation and Parana and Paraguay rivers have a fundamental role in strengthening the national economy?
SB: The transportation network of rivers is essentially based in the Parana and Paraguay water ways, these are fundamental in assuring the progress of our national economy, even though there are some difficulties when Paraguay River is affected by draught, in which the circulation of logistics has a navigation problem in several sectors beginning outside the port of Pilar. However, thanks to a strategic alliance between the government and the private sector, a joint action will soon make a viable investment towards the purchase of cutting edge technological machinery that will work to enable the Paraguay River be navigable year round. Paraguay River is the most transportation route that improves freight costs, and shifts forward our national economy. Today there are a number of private ports located in various parts of the country, and certainly transportation of commodities is much better than five years ago.
PT: What do you recommend to the President Elect of Paraguay and what are some of the priorities for the future government in order to reduce the boundary between the rich and the poor?
SB: We have a great confidence in the political and administrative duties of the incoming president of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes: a successful entrepreneur and a credible leader who has the potential to become an intelligent and capable statesman who will lead a nation with great socio economic differences.
To assure a suitable performance we suggest the implementation of engineering projects that promote an open country to global audiences of domestic and foreign markets, leading the growth of an exporting nation from its experiences in the extended lines of production. Especially we hope that President Cartes would be able to regenerate and mobilize the effective management of river transportation and establish transportation by rail, while keeping in mind the project of making Paraguay “as a leading nation of food exports in the near future.”
PT: What are the pending national projects that may improve the circulation of logistics and transportation vehicles throughout the country?
SB: Infrastructure projects in the country's road network and river network, some are in the processing of building and other works are pending, even though the Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC) has been working positively with the local communities. Paraguay has approximately 3300 KM of land roads; MOPC has built 32,170 km. and the rest by local committees of various departments (provinces). The national highways paved with asphalt and concrete, cement and other materials, are only 6,000 in the two regions. Meanwhile, the dirt roads’ network extends to 27,000 km. However the current ongoing projects are taking place in the regions with a high agricultural production.
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