Wisdom.Applied Wednesday: Uruguayan Agriculture

While the Luis Suarez World Cup bite controversy might have much of the world indirectly upset with Uruguay (and the fact that they’ve advanced to the Round of 16), this Wisdom.Applied Wednesday, we’re highlighting a part of Uruguayan culture that the world can rally behind: agriculture. 

Once, Uruguay was renowned as an agricultural nation. Supposedly, a saying described the country as “the cow and the port.” Agriculture is intimately linked to the Uruguay’s history, for at one point the country’s economy and national identity were nearly synonymous with the industry. The country produced huge amounts of beef and wool that it exported around the world. However, world market prices for these two commodities fell drastically in the 1950s, forcing Uruguay to turn to other areas for economic development.

Beef and wool remain important agricultural products for Uruguay. Almost 60% of the land is taken up with meat and sheep farming, but the number balloons to 82.4% when accounting for cattle breeding to related industries like dairy, forage and rotation with crops like rice. The agricultural economy remains export-oriented with a full 70% of Uruguay’s exports coming from the sector. In 2010 (the last time Suarez sparked World Cup controversy), agriculture made up 9.3% of the country’s GDP and employed 13% of the workforce.

But despite the common perception that they excel only in beef and wool, Uruguay remains one of the world’s largest producers of numerous products, including 9th largest in soybeans, 12th in greasy wool, 14th in horse meat, 14th in beeswax, 17th in quinces, 19th in natural honey, and 20th in cattle meat. These diverse exports have certainly aided the country as world market prices for their chief products waned.

Country-wide agricultural efforts are only part of the Uruguayan story. The majority of Uruguayan farms are owned by families, 65% of whom use beef and wool as their main source for generating income. Again, the dominance of these products is in evidence, but the tradition of family-owned farms continues in Uruguay today. These farms participate in estancia tourism, where visitors tour the historic farms, another boon for the country.

Now, we might use farms in advertising, but it’s not often that we’ll be advertising for actual farms. In Uruguay, agriculture features such a low input from labor, technology, or capital (when compared to similar agricultural exporters like Brazil, Canada, and New Zealand) that there is a real opportunity to market their products as “natural,” one of the bigger marketing movements at the moment. The downside is it gives the country lower yields per hectare than those other countries.

The country has gone on to employ such campaigns as “Uruguayan grass-fed beef” or “Uruguay natural” for their produce, helping to establish them as a premium brand. This is a great example of how to take a positive aspect of a product, even if it entails certain negative aspects, and use it to your advantage in the marketing materials. It’s also a savvy way to get on board with a movement popular among consumers right now. While Uruguayan agriculture may not be the economic driver it used to be, it’s still putting its best foot forward with its messaging.

Check out a video Applegate put together highlighting why they use Uruguayan grass-fed beef:

 

 

Cover Photo Source: Marquicio Pagola

Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.