Argentina has best beef in the world by ranching cattle, feeding specially – Ambassador
ALEJANDRO HERRERO, Ambassador of Argentina to Nigeria, says his country is eager to strengthen ties with the Nigerian government for the mutual benefits of both countries. In this interview with CHIKA OTUCHIKERE, the Ambassador points out that Argentina is ready to share knowledge on agricultural technology with Nigeria, especially in beef production. Excerpts:
Talk us through the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and Argentina
Argentina and Nigeria have had a long relationship. I am here because we want to even increase the cooperation and ties with Nigeria because there are many things to do and we are convinced that there is opportunity for us to be more present in Nigeria. We have many things to do in Africa and we are expanding our presence not only in Nigeria but to the rest of the continent, we are opening other embassies like in Senegal and we consider that this is the moment of Africa.
What is responsible for the weak economic linkage between Nigeria and Argentina?
It is not fair to say what or who is responsible for that. We have situations all around the world that we cannot control, in both Nigeria and Argentina. The prices of commodities have not definitely been in our control, not even in Nigeria’s control, not even in Argentina’s control. So that is the way commerce, trade behaves, sometimes it increases, sometimes it does not. I think we are part of this globalizing world in which we cannot consider the economic ties between Nigeria and Argentina only as separate from the rest of the world. It is happening almost in the whole world in terms of trade.
So, it is not who is responsible for that. It is a matter of factors playing out in trade. In the area of the value of dollar, the situation is fair for us to export. It is just the opposite when it happens to Nigeria, the volume of exports to Argentina could increase because of that reason. So, there are many factors involved in why the trade goes up and goes down. So, it is not easy to separate it and say who is responsible for this. It is a matter of normal situation in commerce that is happening all over the world. We are trying to improve, we are trying to increase our presence but we cannot avoid considering such a limitation.
Several years ago, Argentina committed to cooperating with Nigeria in the areas of agriculture, energy and human resource. How far has this gone?
We have many Argentine people coming to Nigeria to cooperate in agricultural matters, and they are still here and there will be more people coming to Nigeria to work on that. We are working together with the ministry of agriculture and with the office of presidential initiative on agriculture. They are also trying to strengthen the cooperation on that matter. We have many things to do and we have been doing, we started to negotiate the recent Memorandum of Understanding. It is still under negotiation. We think that we can sign that agreement next month and that could be a framework in order to put inside it many ways of cooperating between the two parties.
What lessons can Nigeria learn in area of agriculture particularly livestock management?
Argentina has developed a very well qualified agricultural and livestock technology. We can be considered as a world leader in the way of providing new techniques for agriculture. That is why we want to share with Nigeria such knowledge. Already we are doing that with the cooperation of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology and the Nigerian government and we think there are many things to do about that. As leaders in this field, we consider that we can share with Nigeria many things.
We understand that Argentina has plans to bring in beef into the country
Yes, this is our will but I know that Nigeria has some restrictions. We try to talk to the authorities in order to abolish that decision. Of course it’s a matter of Nigeria’s decision. It is a matter of negotiations and we are going to start negotiating that. It is a decision of the Nigerian government but it is our will because we consider that Argentina beef is the best in the world and really, we want Nigerians to have an opportunity to taste our beef.
Do you also engage in open grazing like we currently do in Nigeria?
No. Argentina has separate ranches with fences where our cattle live and grow. Cattle do not move around in Argentina. They are fixed in one place, they eat in the same place. We feed our cattle with grains and other products that are prepared specially for them. So it’s complete.
Do you have to import grasses for your cattle?
We have very wonderful grasses for our cattle. The quality of our grasses is what distinguishes the quality of our beef. It is natural grass. Sometimes, they feed and get well groomed before they are sent to the abattoir. Yes, of course we know and we are completely respectful for the way Nigeria raises their cattle and we cannot say anything about it because it is a matter of tradition, cultures and years or centuries of doing it in that way. So, if you ask us, we have some special advice on how to improve the weight of the cattle. Of course, it is a matter of tradition and we cannot interfere in the way that you raise your cattle. We consider that if you want to increase the weight of your cattle you have to find a way to enclose them and to feed them in a particular way. It is good for them to gain weight, it is better for everybody. But of course we know that you have traditions and we have to respect.
In 2018, Argentina indicated interest to increase its presence in the Nigerian market in wine production. What are you doing in this respect?
We are going to organize the Malbec Day. Malbec is one of the most important wines that we produce in Argentina. We have not fixed the date yet but it is meant to promote the wine. In that event, we will promote many other wines that our people have sent samples to us. Also, we are visiting supermarkets, we are targeting hotels as far as I see, Argentina produces very good wines and we can reach Nigeria with very good prices too. We have a very good relationship in term of price and quality, that’s our aim and our idea and we will try to do our best.
Nigeria and Argentina share similar experiences in terms of military dictatorship which saw both countries’ fortunes nose-dive. You came out of that period and today you are reasserting yourself. How did your country achieve this and lessons for Nigeria?
In Argentina, fortunately, the dictatorship ended in 1983 and since that time we have done a lot in order to avoid a repeat of those terrible experiences that we had during those years that left thousands of people dead and thousands of people disappearing. Since that time we have built very important structure laws. We have developed a strong legislation to avoid a repeat of such a thing. First of all, we have developed laws that promote respect for human rights, important couple of laws to promote and to defend human rights. I think this is one of the most important things to get over this sad period of our story. And now we consider that there is no room to repeat such an experience in Argentina. Fortunately we have worked a lot to issue laws in order to prevent such things.
How did your country address the high level of poverty after you came out of military dictatorship?
In Argentina, we have a very extensive system of social assistance. We give subsidies to the people most affected by poverty. That is a way we react to that. Sometimes, it is enough, sometimes it is not enough. But we have a very huge and complex system of subsidy to address poverty.
Do your former military leaders occupy democratic offices the way it is in Nigeria?
No, we do not have such. You know in our country the dictatorship ended with a war that contributed to eliminate the possibility for the military leaders to be considered as a political leader. That is one of the most important reasons why they cannot occupy political offices. The military leaders cannot occupy any political office except of course being adviser in issues of the military. They also cannot be Ambassadors. Ambassadorial positions are for the professionals. It is the president that decides who will occupy political office. There was one who was appointed but it was at the end of the dictatorship. Yes, they don’t participate in politics of our country being former military officers.
Do you think the United Nations and other global agencies are doing enough to address poverty in Nigeria?
I think they are doing enough or maybe it is not enough but of course, they are doing what they can do. Poverty is a big problem, it is a global problem. It is not only in one continent. It is not only in Africa, it is in Latin America, it is found in Asia. So, it is difficult for the United Nations to face such a huge problem but they are doing what they can do. Maybe the world has to make more effort to try to think what would happen if the United Nations were not doing what they are doing now in the fight against poverty.
I’m looking at it from the gap between the rich countries and the poor countries. This gap is triggering many indicators such as the large scale migration from poor nations into the rich nations in search of greener pasture, it is becoming a pandemic. I think that the United Nation is acting through many agencies. One is the World Food Programme, which deals sufficiently with food and others like UNIDO. I feel that development has to be even that is the solution to avoid massive migrations. We need to take development to those countries, those areas and those continents that are backward, it’s the only way.
Let us into your plans to celebrate and immortalize the Argentine heroine with Yoruba descent, Maria Renedios Del Valle who fough in the war towards Argentina gaining independence
We are awaiting some quotations and also to try to carry this initiative to the Yoruba people in Nigeria. That is our first step, and to let them know that they are about the project we are working on. There is a movie we want to promote in her memory. I think that is a very significant situation from the moment that the Yoruba descendant has become a heroine of our Independence, a completely new situation. And with that it has become necessary to continue to increase our links to the Yoruba community.