The new Secretary of State is sworn in at Belém Palace
The new Secretary of State is sworn in at Belém Palace

New name in Agriculture ‘no pushover’

Gonçalo Caleia Rodrigues has criticised ‘political vision’ for sector as being “out of touch”

The new Secretary of State for Agriculture holds a doctorate in Biosystems Engineering from the Higher Institute of Agronomy, and has criticised the political vision for the sector as being “out of touch”.

Gonçalo Caleia Rodrigues was officially sworn in yesterday, after the post has been ‘unfilled’ for weeks following the embarrassment of an incumbent who barely had time to sit at her desk.

Critics in the past have often laboured the point that government posts can go to people without necessary expertise. Agriculture particularly. But no one could say this about 42-year-old Rodrigues whose CV shows particular expertise in the field of water usage/ sustainability – arguably one of the issues most affecting agriculture today.

Observador carries a potted biography of the latest govoernment appointment, focusing on the fact that Rodrigues looks set to become the polar opposite of a ‘yes-man’.

The online cites an article he wrote in 2019 when he was executive director of COTR (the centre of competences for irrigation) in which he said that “political vision seems out of touch with reality, presenting isolated measures, without really trying to respond to the “pains” of national producers and the needs that plague us”.

The Government “wants agriculture to be more efficient, technological and digital. But if we do not have available resources, this investment will not be necessary. If we do not have enough water to irrigate, sensors, drones or photovoltaic panels will not guarantee agricultural production. We must seek to direct, fine-tune and take advantage of the funding made available by the new CAP (common agricultural policy) to ensure the implementation of basic measures to combat climate change, guaranteeing water supplies for crops, increasing the volume and/or value of agricultural production, contributing to less external dependence, greater economic competitiveness and, consequently, a greater capacity to attract/retain young people in the sector. And we do not need to reinvent the wheel. The survey is done. All that is needed is the political will to carry it out.”

As Observador remarks, now he is in a place where he can encourage that political will.

Will this be enough to satisfy farmers and producers who have been at loggerheads with the agriculture minister for most of her tenure?

Observador reserves judgement referring to the fact that the Confederation of Farmers actually had “another incident with the minister on Tuesday”. (The incident, described as a lapse and quickly corrected, saw the minister ‘create a team to accompany agricultural policies, leaving the confederation out).

The farmers confederation has been more upbeat, giving Rodrigues “the benefit of the doubt”, says Expresso. 

Confederation president Eduardo Oliveira e Sousa considers “he comes with good academia and from a respected school in the agricultural world. At least we have a Secretary of State now (…) One of the areas of competence on his CV is water – and this is one of the critical problems we have in agriculture. We will now wait to see what he does with the dossiers he receives”.

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