Opinion: facing the impact of drought on Chilean agriculture
By Santiago Farinati, marketing manager for BASF Chile and Peru
According to a November 2012 report by the General Water Department, Chile’s water reservoirs reached 34% capacity, dropping from their historical average by 24% and 50%. To date, the total amount available in the country represents only a third of total storage capacity.
No one denies that water shortage across a wide territorial range is here to stay. It is a current reality and what we do and plan today will impact water security for future generations. The country as a whole must draw out a road map and public policy on how to deal with water scarcity. Measures should involve a partnership between all sectors, including productive and non-productive areas, and state and public actors.
Drought implies enormous challenges for the agriculture industry. It affects crop irrigation alongside production, directly undermining the competitiveness of producers. Currently, one third of the nation’s zones have been declared under agriculture emergency for drought.
One of the most affected areas is Copiapó where agricultural production is down 40%, especially for vegetable and grape harvests. In Region V (Valparaíso), avocado production has dropped 30%. In Region VII (Maule), there are more than 12,000 affected hectares. The region produces more than 80% of rice output nationally. Planted hectares there have fallen from 25,000 to 21,000, as some producers have opted to grow corn instead due to lack of water irrigation.
Although the National Irrigation Commission increased its support for water and drainage projects by CLP$41 billion (US$86.9 million) in 2012, progress is needed to advance logical water useage and efficient irrigation.
We know no one has the formula to end drought, but it is essential to invest in and encourage proposals aimed toward solving this problem.
Here innovation is fundamental, and business contributions to develop agricultural solutions are key.
In BASF, we have developed on a global level a technology called AgCelence, an innovative technology found in some fungicides. When applied preventively, it better prepares plants to withstand the harsh effects of drought and frost. These benefits have been seen in various crops in Chile.
The use of this technology helps increase productivity for farmers exposed to such problems and is a contribution in the race to prevent extreme weather damage both nationally and worldwide.