Country Focus: Chile

by Mindy Dake
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Official name: Republic of Chile.
Capital: Santiago.
Population: 13.6 million, of which 79% is urban. Growth rate 1.6%. About 19% of the labor force works in agriculture.
Language: Spanish.
Religion: Roman Catholicism, 89%; Protestant, 11%.
Government: Republic. Chief of State and head of government is President Patricio Aylwin Azocar.
Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture; COTRISA (Comercializadora de Trigo S.A.), a corporation 95% capitalized by the government. COTRISA was formed to purchase domestically grown wheat to maintain minimum prices.
Land and climate: Land area is 756,950 square km in a narrow land mass, consisting of low coastal mountains in the west; the Andes mountains in the east; and the central valley, where most agricultural production occurs. About 7% is arable land. Chile is bordered by Argentina on the east and by Bolivia and Peru on the north. The western boundary consists of 6,435 km of coastline on the Pacific Ocean.
Economy: Market economy with export orientation. Agriculture accounts for about 9% of total G.D.P., with industrial production accounting for about 36%. The G.D.P. growth rate in 1991 was about 5.5%. Major industries include copper and other minerals, wood products and fish processing.
G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$2,809 (1992).
Currency: Peso. Major crops: Wheat, maize, fruits, sugar beets.
Wheat: Chile has become nearly self-sufficient in wheat production, and almost 50% of planted area is dedicated to wheat. The annual harvest now is about 1.5 million to 1.8 million tonnes, depending on weather, compared with about 500,000 before 1980. Imports since 1989 have averaged about 330,000 tonnes a year.
Wheat is planted from May through September and is harvested from December through the end of March. The predominant wheat type is a soft variety used for bread, with about 10% to 15% of the crop planted to durum.
Maize: Maize is grown on about 12% of Chile's planted area, and annual production generally reaches about 825,000 tonnes. Annual imports average about 300,000 tonnes. Virtually all commercially grown maize is irrigated, and the small amount of non-irrigated production is used primarily on farm.
Nearly all commercially grown maize is consumed as feed for the pork and poultry industries. The amount of maize used for cattle depends almost entirely on the maize price relative to substitutes, a relationship that generally favors the substitutes.
Chile also produces seed maize, with most major international seed companies growing seed maize in Chile for export to the Northern Hemisphere.
Livestock: Chile has an efficient livestock sector. Annual beef production averages about 230,000 tonnes, nearly double that of pork and poultry. But Chile's pork and poultry industries have grown rapidly in the last few years. From 1989 to 1992, pork production increased by 12%, and poultry production was up by 21%. Beef production in the same period grew by only 7%.
Transportation: Chile has 7,766 km of railroads, with about 4,000 km consisting of 1.676-meter gauge and about 3,600 km of 1-meter gauge. Of the 79,025 km of highways, about 36,000 km are improved and unimproved earth, some 33,000 are gravel and 9,900 are paved.
Major ports are Valparaiso, the country's largest, San Antonio, Antofogast and Arica. Seaborne grain imports are handled mostly through San Antonio, with Argentine grain generally imported overland by truck.