According to Gerald Arkin, assistant dean and assistant provost of the University of Georgia-Griffin campus, the delegation arrived Thursday to see how things are done at the campus.
“We have a wonderful relationship and we want to grow that relationship,” Arkin said, referring to UGA-Griffin’s relationship with Honduras and fellow academics there.
After lunch, Minister Hector Hernandez from the Honduran Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Sciences gave a presentation on the Honduran economy. Since the presentation was in Spanish, Marco Fonseca, the state master gardener coordinator for UGA-Griffin, translated.
Hernandez began his presentation with a description of the chief agricultural products of the Honduran economy - he listed coffee, sugar cane, tilapia and dairy products, among others - before discussing how much exports have risen in recent years. He said that agriculture represents 20 percent of Honduras’ gross national product and the country is trying to expand it so that it represents 40 percent.
He then described where Honduras exports different agricultural products. Coffee is Honduras’ premier agricultural export to the United States, to the tune of 4.2 million 46-kilogram sacks exported in 2006-2007. Bananas are also a major export - the United States, El Salvador and Germany are major importers, although Germany recently imposed tariffs to protect African banana producers. Honduras is now looking into replacing Germany with China.
Hernandez then shifted his discussion to tilapia, a major export to the United States.
“Two planes per day, five days a week,” he said.
“Ecuador is number one,” Fonseca added. “Honduras hopes to be number one.”
Hernandez said the Honduran president has three goals he would like to reach - reduce poverty, improve food safety and modernize and make more effective Honduran agricultural production. Hernandez said 55 percent of the Honduran public is poor and of that figure, 72 percent are extremely poor. He attributed this to the low prices of food produced in Honduras, a situation that has improved lately owing to price increases.
After Hernandez finished his presentation, Arkin gave members of the delegation various UGA gifts, including a red-and-white UGA shirt to Arturo Galo, whose luggage was misplaced and who had to buy new clothes.
“These are the colors of my soccer team in Honduras,” Galo said when he received the shirt.
After the main presentation was over, Be-Atrice Sams, administrative manager at the assistant dean’s office, made a presentation about the UGA Young Scholars Program, which provides paid six-week summer internships for high school students interested in the sciences. Students accepted by the program work with research scientists and make presentations to their peers and to the scientists at the end of the internship.
“Students gain research experience because they’ve worked with some of the best scientists in the world,” she said. Ninety-seven percent of those who attend the program go on to college; some go as far away as Yale and Harvard, but 80 percent stay in Georgia.
Arkin said the program is very competitive - 43 students applied for 13 spots last time.
“We don’t advertise because we can’t take them,” he said.
Griffin Mayor Doug Hollberg enjoyed the presentation.
“I thought it was very informative and nice to know how the University of Georgia-Griffin campus is not only making a difference in the local economy and nationally, but (in) a global economy in agribusiness,” he said.