Chile leads the world in copper production but the country must do more to diversify its export-driven economy, according to experts. Precisely to diversify several government and industry bodies have spent years promoting Chile’s major non-mining related export items, which consist largely of produce, wood products and aquaculture.
“We have a gigantic shortfall when it comes to investing in other products,” Ricardo French-Davis National Prize winner of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at the Universidad de Chile, told The Santiago Times.
Chile’s has also been prolific in signing free trade agreements — the country has 22 such agreements, allowing free trade to 60 economies around the world including the European Union, the United States, China and Japan, opening its products up to 62% of the world’s population.
Now, those efforts may be starting to pay off. According to figures released by national trade commission, ProChile, the country is one of the top three largest producers in the world for a total of 23 non-copper related products. In 2003, that figure numbered 11 products.
Apart from copper, Chile was the world’s biggest exporter of nine other commodities in 2012, according to the figures.
Fresh grapes topped the list, with US$1.5 billion of exports. This figure amounts to 810,000 metric tons — or 20.6% of fresh grapes exports in the world in 2012 — more than double the amount exported by the United States, the world’s second biggest exporter.
Other fruits also figured prominently, with fresh blueberries accounting for US$409 million, fresh plums US$146 million, and dried apples reeled in US$39 million — all world leading figures. Chile is the world’s second highest exporter of fresh cherries, at US$ 407 million.
Fish was also a big ticket export item, with frozen salmon not including fillets, frozen trout not including fillets and smoked fish exports all leading the world, earning US$508 million, US$390 million and US$58 million in profits, respectively. Fish fillets accounted for US$ 582 million in exports — the second highest in the world.
The other two leading items export items were refined coniferous wood and wood fiber boards, with US$229 million and US$150 million in exports, respectively.
Of a total US$79 billion worth of exported goods in 2012, US$29 billion were non-mineral commodities — a figure which ProChile, aims to expand.
“Through ProChile, the Chilean government has been focusing its efforts on diversifying export products as well as the destinations of Chilean exports,” Carlos Honorato, Director of ProChile, told The Santiago Times. “We believe that the innovation of our businesses will make them more competitive and allow us to develop the country, moving us away from dependency on raw materials.”
The organization is betting that China, the world’s biggest copper consumer, might also be key in increasing other exports.
Last week ProChile, along with industry bodies and the Chilean Embassy to China, launched its a campaign to promote blueberries and cherries sales in the Asian giant via the business-to-consumer website Tmall — the eighth most visited website in China.
By Benjamin Druttman - The Santiago Times