Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the centre of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazon de Sudamerica ('Heart of South America').
Indigenous people have been living in eastern Paraguay for at least a millennium before the arrival of the Spanish.
Spanish Conquistadores arrived in the country by navigating the Paraguay River at the beginning of the 16th century, establishing themselves in the City of Asuncion, which nowadays is the capital of Paraguay.
The country became independent at the beginning of the 19th century.
With around 7mn inhabitants, Paraguay is a founding member of Mercosur, an original member of the United Nations, the Organisation of American States, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Lima Group. Also, the city of Luque, in Asuncion's Metropolitan Area, is the seat of the Conmebol. Paraguayans are known for being a very happy and easy-living people and many times the country topped the "world's happiest place" charts because of the "positive experiences" lived and expressed by the population.
In recent years, the economy has grown as a result of increased agricultural exports, especially soybeans. Paraguay has the economic advantages of a young population and vast hydroelectric power.
The soybean industry has grown exponentially in South America, including in Paraguay. The results of this growth have been substantial for Paraguay especially and the soybean industry has brought economic expansion to the country.
According to information available online, Paraguay was fourth on a list of top 15 countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of soybeans during 2017. Its soybeans exports were worth $2.1bn, accounting for 3.7% of the world's exported soybeans. Paraguay is also the sixth largest producer of soybeans in the world.
Overall, Paraguay’s most valuable exported goods are soybeans, electrical energy, oil cake, beef, corn, insulated wire or cable and rice. The country shipped $8.7bn worth of goods around the globe in 2017, up by 2.1% from 2016. As of June 2018, Paraguay’s exported goods were valued at $4.9bn, up by 13.3% compared to the first six months of 2017.
The country also boasts of the third most important free commercial zone in the world: Ciudad del Este, trailing behind Miami and Hong Kong.
Paraguay is also looking to cash in on the growing demand for yerba mate herb. Yerba mate tea, made from a holly tree whose scientific name is Ilex paraguariensis, has been beloved in South America since before colonisation. The herb has been popular for centuries in countries, including Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. And now, the rest of the world is starting to catch on.
In Paraguay, entrepreneurs and farmers are attempting to take advantage of this by experimenting with new products made from the herb, such as ice cream and medicinal creams. Paraguay produces 50,000 tonnes of yerba mate annually, making it the world’s third largest producer.
The vast majority of Paraguay’s yerba mate producers are families – about 10,000 – operating on a small scale. Many of them are starting to exploit the herb’s popularity and nutritional value by turning it into new kinds of products.
(Courtesy: Wikipedia, DPA, http://www.worldstopexports.com/)