Por: Priscila Delgado de Carvalho, CASAS, 17 May 2020
The government of Paraguay adopted preventive sanitary measures on March 10th, prohibiting activities that gather many people, and, later, on March 28th, adopted stronger measures for isolation. On March 13th, the government announced an increase in the value of the cash transfer programs to the vulnerable and senior population (Tekoporã and Adulto Mayor). There were discussions about how to provide food baskets for poor families and the government finally decided to offer the support in the form of a bonus (of around USD 1-1,50/day, per family, the amount also being a contested issue). Around 24% of the population lives below the poverty line and widespread informal workers are especially affected by the isolation measures.
Fresh food prices (tomatoes, potatoes, onions) have risen abusively in the country – rural unions spoke of 100-500% raise. The increase was a consequence of impacts of the pandemics on food imports from Argentina and by intermediaries’ bad practices, says the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG). Officials claimed that both governments were working to solve the problem. The Ministry has announced a decrease in taxes, supervision over intermediaries, price controls and active search for other importers.
In Paraguay, agribusiness controls 94% of agricultural land. The remaining 6% is in the hands of small farmers – some producing for self-consumption and many far from the capital Assunción and its outskirts that concentrate ⅓ of the countries’ population. One of the consequences of this level of land concentration, allied to a lack of support for indigenous, peasants and small farmers, is that Paraguay depends on food imports. Paraguay is self-sufficient in yucca and banana only (Base Is, 2000).
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In Paraguay, COVID-19 exposes the problems of land concentration: food imports and the limits of policies for peasant support