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Rice Today

Agncia Brasil

Uruguays president
by Neil Palmer

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ou may remember reading an article in the JulySeptember 2012 issue of Rice Today, documenting Uruguays rice sector and the impressive gains in productivity it has seen in recent years. I wrote the piece after accompanying a delegation from the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) to the town of Treinta y Tres, in the heart of the countrys ricegrowing region. With increases in yields of up to 25% in just a few years, the GRiSP scientists wanted to know the secret of the countrys success with rice, and so did I. We learned about a unique system of trust, transparency, and vertical integration in Uruguays rice industry that has enabled the crop to flourish. A three-hour flight in a small plane over the spectacular paddy fields in the east of the country was the perfect way to end the trip. But that wasnt the end. The Spanish-language BBC Mundo used the article as the basis for an in-depth feature published in advance of international coverage of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research, which by coincidence was taking place in Uruguay in October. Happy that Uruguay was receiving attention for its success with rice, we thought that was that. What we didnt realize was that the countrys Rice Growers Associationmaking efficient use of Rice Todays Creative Commons policyhad translated the article into Spanish and republished it in their quarterly magazine Rice, distributing
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uruguay President Jos Mujica, read on live radio a Spanish translation of a Rice Today article about his countrys impressive gains in rice production.

it to their 500 members, and many other people and organizations. They were rightly proud that GRiSP the worlds largest coalition of rice
Dele's Diary

expertshad singled the country out for praise, and wanted to share the good news. But, in the Uruguayan media, a much bigger story was playing out at the same time. The countrys flag carrier airline PLUNAgovernmentowned, and a great source of pride had been on the brink of bankruptcy, and its seven planes were up for auction for US$137 million. When a deal with a private-sector buyer unexpectedly fell through, PLUNA collapsed. Eager to hear what the president would say about the scandal, even more Uruguayans than usual tuned in to President Jos Pep Mujicas popular weekly national radio address that week. President Mujica is renowned for not being a typical president: a former guerrilla in the 1960s and 70s, he gives away most of his salary to charity, lives on a modest farm

outside the capital Montevideo, and drives a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. Perhaps his audience should have expected an unconventional broadcast. But probably no one expected him to come on-air and read, from start to finish, an article he had recently seen that gave him and his country a reason to be proud the Rice Growers Associations translation of the Rice Today article. Gonzalo Zorrilla, former executive director of the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR), which is coordinated by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and now head of Uruguays rice research program, found the sudden focus of attention on his country both surprising and well-deserved. Its very difficult for such a small country on the other side of the world from the rice big leagues to be recognized for its achievements, Mr. Zorrilla said. But the GRiSP meeting in Treinta y Tres, the article in Rice Today, the GCARD coverage, and the

Neil Palmer (2)

Uruguay serves as an example and source of lessons for developing successful rice sector, says Gonzalo Zorrilla, head of Uruguays rice research program.

cherry on the cake placed by the president, gave Uruguays rice sector exceptional exposure. Ive been in a good position to observe its remarkable evolution after more than 20 years as a rice researcher at INIA, Uruguays national agricultural research program, and the last 7 years working in the whole region with FLAR and CIAT, he added. So, I can say

that the events of last year were an unexpected but very fitting tribute to the hard work and commitment of many, many people. Hopefully, the exposure given to Uruguays rice sector will be useful for rice farmers around the world, for improving their own production. Mr. Palmer is a communications officer at CIAT.

Uruguays highly successful model for rice production has attracted the attention of the world. In 2012, GRiSP brought representatives from about 20 countries to Uruguay to take a closer look at its successful agricultural strategies.

President Jos Mujica, known for his modest lifestyle, drives a 1987 Volkswagon Beetle.

Rice Today July-September 2013

Rice Today July-September 2013

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