Lack of water investment hinders Chile's agricultural growth

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Lack of water investment hinders Chile's agricultural growth

Chile's drought conditions could have been avoided if the country had invested in resevoirs to make the most of extra rainfall during the Bolivian winter, claimed National Irrigation Commission executive secretary Felipe Martin.

He told attendees at Chile Produce Marketing Association's (PMA) breakfast briefing that only 4% of Chile's water was kept in resevoirs with 84% flowing back to the sea.

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"The clearest example is the Bolivian winter. If we had had reservoirs in the north this year, we could have avoided five years of drought. We were not prepared, making it clear that the problem lies in investment," he said.

Martin added that Chile's climate was changing with temperatures increasing by 2 degrees centigrate over recent years with this predicted to rise to 5 degrees centigrade.

He said 78% of the country's water was used for agriculture which he described as the nation's most important asset.

The country currently has a total of 1.1 million hectares of arable land with a governmenal goal of this increasing to 1.7 hectares through a national resevoir and water pipeline plan.

He called on the private sector to realize the importance of investing in water infrastructure so Chile could make the most of its farming potential. He described the country's potential 5 million hectares of arable land as 'white gold'.

Martin said the country needed a national water policy where private use of water would also be also included.

Peru, he said, had a more forward looking approach to infrastructure investment decanting water from the Amazon river and Pacific into three zones which would give it an arable growth capacity of 300,000 hectares.

He said the cost of investing in Chile's water management would be a third of the investment needed in another project.

Chile PMA briefings aim to provide members with essential industry news, encourage debate and help improve the sector's supply chain efficiency.

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