THE WEALTH OF REGIONS

Panama 2019 | FOOD & AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

Agribusiness and logistics are the two most promising sectors for bringing substantial long-term investment into Chiriquí.

Felipe V. Rodríguez
BIOGRAPHY
Felipe V. Rodríguez has been the President of CAMCHI since 2018. He holds a bachelor in law and political science and a BS in business administration from Wright State University. He has a wide range of experience in the financial, industrial, and commercial sectors.

What are some of CAMCHI's recent achievements?

CAMCHI has established itself as a solid and strong-willed organization that promotes the advantages and opportunities of trade and investments in the province of Chiriquí with national and international projection for the benefit of integral and sustainable development of the region. Furthermore, we have achieved respect and recognition of the work we do from the general public and the authorities themselves, with whom we have been promoting various projects in PPPs, such as the Business Roundtable, the launch of the Discover Destination Brand Chiriquí to promote tourism, and the Competitiveness Center of the Western Region of the CECOMRO Country, which helps integrate the provinces of Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, and La Comarca Ngäbe Buglé to support agricultural production, among others. All of the different chambers of commerce installed in the Republic of Panama are mutual entities.

In regard to new business lines, where do you see the most potential?

We have discovered some valuable points with the help of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), including the quality of coffee. In fact, we found seven products that were the best for export. One was coffee and the second was cocoa, discovered in the northern region of Bocas de Toro. In addition, we have milk, tomatoes, bananas, as well as green vegetables. Our bananas and pineapples are the best when it comes to sweetness, even higher than Colombia or Ecuador. We do not produce large quantities, but we produce a premium quality.

Would you say you are doing a lot of promotion or knocking on doors to get your message out?

We are certainly knocking on doors. Even more, we have approached the canal administrator about all the different programs we have, both business-related and social. It was delighted to hear what we are doing, so we are expecting more support from it in order to help our project. It was the first visit by our chamber to the canal administration. We were founded in 1951, so you can calculate how many years have gone by. We received its administrators here, but we had never gone there.

What is the main focus of the CAMCHI when it comes to attracting international investors?

The main focus of our chamber is to convince major investment players to come to our area. We are trying to bring, and have been successful in bringing, a fish farm into the Puerto Armuelles area, a USD50-million investment. Furthermore, it will build a hatchery plant and grow into small fish before being hatched in big cages in Chiriquí Bay. In about two years' time, we will get amberjack fish exported from that area to the US. This is the fourth investment from this company, which has already invested in Hawaii, Africa, and Brazil. The fourth is here, and they say this is the best area they have found, apart from Hawaii. Our job is to eagerly look for new investors such as this to create more value for the employment we need in our area. We are not looking for merely low-quality employment. We are also looking for better paid, high-level employment that creates wealth. Low-quality employment doesn't solve any problems.

What is in the pipeline for the CAMCHI?

In our area, we are planning to continue all of our efforts in agribusiness and logistics. In Panama, we will build an international food hub in the canal zone. That is why we wanted to speak to the canal administrator. It is making investments with the backing of the Dutch government. One of the ideas we have is to back a project for building another port near Chiriquí. We need to bring in all the fertilizers and everything we will need, but we also need to export.