On February 27th of this year Chile was struck by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake causing great damage to the country. Rodrigo Ortega Blu from NeoAg, the Ag Leader distributor in Chile, was near the epicenter when the earthquake struck. Thankfully, Rodrigo and the rest of the staff at NeoAg and their families were not hurt during the earthquake. Unfortunately, this is not where the story ends. It's been six weeks since the earthquake. I recently spoke with Rodrigo when he was back near the epicenter. He states "the biggest problem for the Chilean farmers has been the damage to the infrastructure of the farming community. Roads and bridges were destroyed making it very difficult to get machinery and supplies where needed." Harvest is coming and many farmers are concerned about getting machinery to their farms to harvest the crops. There was a lot of damage to irrigation canals and dams causing the loss of crops due to flooding in some areas and lack of water in others. Additional losses occurred due to grain bins and elevators being destroyed and storage tanks at wineries collapsing spilling all of their contents. While the grain from the damaged bins and elevators can be recovered at a cost, the wine is a complete loss.
On top of the damage to the infrastructure, Chilean growers are struggling with trying to operate their farms without a home. Rodrigo says, "There are a lot of farm families that are living in tents or makeshift shelters because their homes were destroyed by the quake. Even though their homes are gone the farm work must get done so they can earn their living." Farming without a home? Quite the testament to the Chilean spirit and perseverance. With all the damage and destruction Chilean farmers do appear to be optimistic. Commodity prices have come back after falling right after the earthquake. A new government that is more favorable to the farming community has been elected promising to help rebuild the infrastructure so that the spring planting season can occur, although it will likely be delayed. Also, the US government extended the period for Chilean imports into the US by two weeks allowing more growers to get their products (mainly fruits and vegetables) exported. We wish Rodrigo and the Chilean farmers the best of luck as they work to recover from the destruction of the earthquake. Our prayers are with them.