Chilterra. Who is Ricardo Ríos, who once controlled one of Chile’s largest dairy farms?
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The third largest national milk producer and former candidate for Regional Councilor for the Los Ríos Region with the Christian Democracy quota, the civil computer engineer who ran Chilterra SA after debts to well over US $60 million. Richardo Ríos has abandoned more than 200 families to their fate, some of which have taken over the Huite farm and kept it producing in the country’s south.
Ricardo Ríos was the general manager and legal founder of the Chilterra group, a company composed mainly of the company of the same name and Agrícola Dos Ríos, the latter owner of the livestock, machinery, equipment and also responsible for the farms’ workforce.
Known in the area for being the son of Richard Ríos, a doctor and former Minister of Health of the first government of Sebastián Piñera in the Los Ríos region, the civil computer engineer has maintained a history linked to business politicians and representatives of the dairy industry, posing as an actor in favour of the fight against climate change and sustainable development.
Thus, in 2021, Ríos Pohl ran as a candidate for CORE as an independent from the DC, taking the discourse of food, poverty and water scarcity as his main axes and proposals. A campaign financed mainly by his son, with more than 16 million in contributions. However, he failed to be elected.
Another of this engineer’s milestones was his presentation on May 16, with the support of the National Federation of Milk Producers (Fedeleche) in the Senate Agriculture Commission, where he spoke about Chile’s food vulnerability, which led to to the formation of the Food Security table of the government of Gabriel Boric.
However, these actions have been under the mantle of the so-called “green capitalism” or “ecosocialism”, which has been harshly criticized mainly for being based on a reduction in environmental impact through the application of production processes with more incredible energy and technological efficiency, being the market the primary tool, contradictorily maintaining the privatization and commodification of natural resources, calling them “natural capital” without ending the exploitation of the land and its workers.
Furthermore, with the entry into a crisis of the Chilterra group, Ríos accused the communities themselves and the “Mapuche conflict” as one of the reasons for the higher spending on production; this is due to decisions that contemplate giving up planting or the increased hiring of guards, this considering that a large part of its workers are of Mapuche origin, which has generated differences and conflicts.
The Chilterra crisis
With a history in the field dating back to 1992, the dairy businessman who manages the group with the participation of New Zealand capital advanced to have more than 3,900 owned land and 3,300 leased, the breeding of more than 13 thousand cows and 9 milking parlours in the regions of Los Lagos, Araucanía and Los Ríos.
The company’s main creditors are the banks Finance, Itaú, Vice and Scotiabank, and Prolesur, a subsidiary of Soprole focused on the supply and manufacturing of dairy products.
With a production of 28 billion milk per year, it established itself as Chile’s third most crucial producer in volume. However, the drought of 2015 implied a radical change in its production method.
Thus, after importing the New Zealand model, characterized by high performance, Ríos looked for a way of producing that does not depend on external factors, leading him to enter into more significant investments and excess debts.
A decision led to a gradual change in its production model in 2016, going from a feeding system based on 100% grassland to a mixed system of concentrates and grassland farming.
A fact that did not bring good returns is mainly due to the cost of maintaining the livestock (which even involved the purchase of new breeds of cows) and with drops in production of 35%, dropping from 28 million litres in 2018 to only 18 million currently and failing to receive 4,400 million pesos per year.
It was not until July 2022 that the company turned to the courts to initiate two judicial reorganization processes after the debt accumulated in these years.
Advised by the Castañeda group and the controversial lawyer Herman Chadwick Larraín, sentenced to 3 years of supervised release after his involvement in the “Caval” case, the Ríos group seeks to circumvent the regulatory framework introduced by the Superintendency of Solvency and Re-entrepreneurship as well as the courts.
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