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P3. Agrobiodiversity, conservation and competitiveness of local genetic resources and farming systems

Since joining the EU in 1986, the Portuguese economy has suffered significant changes. Following the trend of its European pears, economic structure has shifted from primary and secondary sectors to the service sector that contributed, in 2015, with 75,8% of the gross value added (GVA) and employed 68,15% of the population. Since records are available, agricultural and food industry trade balances have been consistently negative, even though it is possible to notice an upward trend in the food industry sector for the past 4 years.

As the agri-food industry share of overall GVA has remained relatively constant for the past 20 years, the agriculture sector has been steadily losing importance in the country’s economy. These numbers are not only reflected in the GVA but they are also obvious in the employment numbers. Another fact that must be addressed is the very high proportion of farmers over 55 years of age. In 2015, this figure was on the 75% mark, with tendency to rise.
Regarding the contribute weight of the different Agri-food products’ chain-of-values, they are quite imbalanced, with the most significant being "meat and meat derived products”. Even though there is no linear trend, the overall trend suggests that this imbalance is increasing. In transformed foodstuff, there are three classes of products that deserve special attention. In terms of beverages, wine (8% of productive farmland is covered by grapevines) is the key element. Even though the production has been decreasing for the last decade (though with considerable oscillations), exports have risen in the same period. 

The increase of the export value is in-line with the forecasted behaviour, since the Portuguese wine industry has put considerable effort into the development of international recognized brands (besides Port Wine) based on a significant investment in quality control and fostering of DOP regions (protected origin regions) that represented in 2011/2012 73% of the overall wine production.

Although Portugal has very favourable conditions for grapevine development, oscillations in production are closely associated with weather conditions and the inability of current grapevine cultivars to endure these changes. Climate change will undoubtedly have an impact in this sector, as we will ultimately observe a northward shift in heat/drought adapted grapevine cultivars, which is expected to impact significantly on the portfolio of cultivars in each DOP region.

This fact stresses the need for thorough studies and technological investment in this area that has a profound social and economic footprint in the country. The adoption of genomic and remaining omics-based technologies will certainly be of paramount importance for the Portuguese wine industry. Roughly half of all "animal or vegetable fats and oils and their cleavage products” category exports is comprised by olive oil (53% of productive farmland is covered by olive trees), with about 90% of all the olive oil produced in the country going for export. Unlike wine production, olives for olive oil have seen a considerable increase in production in the last decade. Whereas in the wine sector the main driver was quality increase, in the case of olive oil quantity was the key aspect.

The production clustering and expansion of the productive area resulted in the country’s current positive trade balance and self-sufficiency. Unlike Spain, Italy and Greece, which are the top-three main exporters, Portuguese olive oil is yet to become a well-recognized brand at the global scale. The bulk of exports goes to Brazil (which shares with us important cultural ties) and accounts for more than half of the total value. In order to build a strong brand, use of the state of- the art agricultural technologies and processes will need to be implemented to increase quality and mitigate the impacts of intensive production systems.

It is relevant to mention that the Portuguese Government launched a network of competitiveness centers2 from which four were dedicated to the agri-food sector (Portugal foods, Agro-Industry Cluster of the Centre Region; Agro-Industry Cluster of Ribatejo; Wine Cluster of the Region of Douro). Thus, BIOPOLIS can contribute to those clusters as a CoE for the innovation and promotion of collaboration and knowledge sharing at a national and international level. This can also be expanded through the science and technology parks which are distributed across Portugal (e.g., Ave Park in Minho, Régia-Douro Park in Vila Real, UPTEC in Porto, Biocant Park in Coimbra, Tagus Park in Lisbon, and Parque de Ciência e Tecnologia do Alentejo in Évora, AGRO-TECH Campus, Parkurbis, Tagusvalley and ValleyPark).
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