Update on Chilean agriculture – 6 months after the big earthquake.
On April 14th I wrote a blog post about the Chilean earthquake and the effect it had on agriculture and promised a follow up. I recently spoke with Rodrigo Ortega from Neo-Ag, the Ag Leader distributor in Chile, to get his feedback on how the agricultural community is coping. Below is the update from Rodrigo.
Six months had passed since Chile was struck by the fifth most powerful earthquake in world’s history. It was 8.8 degrees on the Richter Magnitude Scale causing severe damage to the country’s infrastructure, producing also a tsunami that destroyed several coastal villages and cities, killing approximately 300 people, and leaving approximately 80,000 families homeless and another 40,000 with their homes damaged.
Chilean agriculture was heavily affected by the quake: connectivity was affected in rural areas and main routes, irrigation infrastructure was destroyed preventing proper crop irrigation for some crops, and storage capacity was destroyed. For example, thousands of cubic meters of wine and stored grain were lost, packing and production plants were partially destroyed, etc.
After the emergency, the country is slowly recovering. Affected people are living in emergency housing and reconstruction has started; connectivity has been recovered in most affected areas. In the case of agriculture, irrigation infrastructure (reservoirs, canals, gates, etc.) are being rebuilt by irrigation users with the help of special government programs; production and storage facilities are being recovered and becoming ready for the next harvest. The current growing season is about normal in terms of area planted in most crops; however there is some uncertainty regarding product pricing, particularly for products such as wheat, corn, and rice.
One unwanted side effect of reconstruction efforts on exporting agriculture is the loss of value of the dollar against the Chilean peso; caused by a larger offer of dollars within the economy for reconstruction purposes. This is affecting returns for exporting farmers who are paid for their products in dollars; on the other hand, this situation is helping reducing the prices of imported goods such as construction materials and technologies, including precision agriculture ones.
We are all glad to hear that agriculture in Chile is starting to recover. Let’s hope the reconstruction efforts continue to move forward in an expedited manner so that the Chilean farmers can get back to a normal life. Farming is a hard enough business as it is, we don’t need earthquakes and tsunamis to make things worse. Thanks to Rodrigo Ortega for providing an update on agriculture in Chile and we wish all the Chilean people a speedy and full recovery.