Global Kitchen Series No.11 - Paraguay
H.E. Mr. Raúl Florentín Antola
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Paraguay to Japan
I have been representing Paraguay as the Ambassador since 2018. Our embassy represents the country in every sector - political, economic, commercial, and cultural. We place an emphasis on the commercial/economical sector, exploring opportunities for Paraguayan products and investment opportunities for Japanese companies. The Japanese market is very interesting but with a very high standard high demanding, which sometimes can be difficult for countries to fulfill. We support many Paraguayan companies to enter the Japanese market.What are Paraguay's main agricultural products?
Our main agricultural exports to Japan are sesame, soybean products for animal food, and very few quantities of grains including chia. Paraguay is the 4th largest soybean exporter in the world. Our 2nd largest export product is beef. More than 50 markets are open for Paraguayan beef, but Japan is not included yet. We also produce corn, wheat, and rice. We have 7 million inhabitants but producing produce food for 50 million. Paraguay is a big food producer, but we don’t have a lot of food products coming to Japan yet.What are the challenges of exporting to the Japanese market?
Japan has very high restrictive controls and standards, especially regarding pesticide residues in agricultural products. In this sense, we are working very hard to fulfill all the standards in Japan. Now, together with JICA and Japanese companies, we are working on enhancing our quality, particularly in Sesame, and our exports to Japan are growing slightly. One very important aspect related to our work is our effort to open the Japanese market for Paraguayan beef. This is a very long process, and we need some time to conclude the negotiations.We must wait until 2029 for Paraguayan beef?
We hope to open the market as soon as possible, but the negotiations take a little bit of time. In the future when Paraguay can export beef to Japan, we know that we are going to face big competitors. But we are not pretending to occupy a big piece of the market because it’s hard to compete against well-established countries in the beef market, like the US and Australia. I guess we are going to be similar to Uruguay in terms of export quantity. Our aim is also to open the Japanese market for our beef, due to the fact that exporting to Japan is equivalent to a quality seal for our product. Japan is one of the most demanding markets regarding norms and quality, so if you can export there, you will be able to export to any other country.Could you tell us a little about the relations between Paraguay and Japan?
The relationship between Paraguay and Japan couldn’t be better. In 2019, we celebrated 100 years of the establishment of the diplomatic relationship between Paraguay and Japan. Not many Japanese people are aware that we have a large Japanese community in Paraguay. Recently, there was a Nihon Matsuri in Asunción (The capital of Paraguay), a very big Japanese festival where the Japanese communities in Paraguay came together and presented food, dance, and omikoshi.What are the basics and essence of Paraguayan cuisines?
Paraguayan cuisine is a mix between indigenous food culture and influences of European cuisine, mostly Spanish and Italian. Even if there are different ethnic groups, but the Guarani culture is very strong in Paraguay. The native food culture is very simple and based on a few products like corn and manioc. One example of a typical Paraguayan dish is what we call “Chipa Guazu” (cornbread). It is like a soufflé made with fresh corn and cheese, which has some influence from European culture. Another typical dish in Paraguay is a “solid soup” called “sopa paraguaya”. It’s made of corn flour, cheese, onion, eggs, and milk, and looks like a Bread pancake. This fact is a big surprise for many tourists. We also eat a lot of maniocs in different ways: cooked, fried, and as flour. A very typical Paraguayan bread made of manioc flour is called “chipa”. Paraguayan food is strongly based on beef as well, just like our neighbors, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
Japan is not 100% self-sufficient so they need to import food. Paraguay can become a very important and trustworthy partner to make food for Japan. We hope that we can work closely with Japanese companies in food-producing so Japanese companies in Paraguay can produce food for the Japanese market. Paraguay has no expectations of conflict with neighbors or internal conflicts so Japan can trust us as a food supplier. Beef is very important for us. If we can open the market for beef, Paraguay can be more present in the market.By the way, what do you like about Japanese food, Mr. Ambassador?
Everything. My wife and I love to eat. Japanese foods use very fresh ingredients and they’re also healthy. We appreciate the high standard and quality, whether it is sushi, tonkatsu, or kaiseki. Many Paraguayans are not familiar with raw products because we are a landlocked country, but I like it and appreciate the fresh taste of the fish.Are there any restaurants in Tokyo where we can enjoy Paraguayan cuisine?
Just one Paraguayan restaurant in Akasaka called Amigo. It’s a nice restaurant where typical Paraguayan dishes are offered.