Chile: Copiapo water shortage mitigated for one season
Recent rainfall in Chile means many northern growers will have enough water to irrigate fields this summer as if it were a normal year without drought conditions, according to a key industry representative.
María Inés Figari, who is the director of Chile's Federation of Fruit Producers (Fedefruta) and the president of Northern Agricultural Society (SAN), made the comments following several days of rainfall throughout much of the country.
Fruit and vegetable growers in many northern and central regions of Chile have been facing water shortages after around a decade of drought.
"We are very happy with the rains as we have been able to make good use of the water," she said.
"We had no sudden rise or fall of river levels which were too great to manage, and so the result is hugely positive for agriculture in the [IV] region of Coquimbo."
The Coquimbo province of Limari - one of the most severely affected by the water shortage - registered more than 160 millimeters (6.3 inches) of rain, corresponding to more than what would typically be received in a normal year.
The surrounding mountains also saw heavy snowfall reaching more than 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in height.
Figari mentioned, however, the rains and snowfall would only serve the industry for the coming season, and would not resolve the drought.
She also highlighted that 60% of crops in Coquimbo had not received any rainfall this winter season until these past few days, and so it was yet to be established whether certain sectors could continue with irrigation activities.
"For now, we are happy that we have been able to recuperate some of our farm land, and that we can continue working," Figari said.
Rainfall was also experienced further north of Coquimbo in the table grape-focused region of Copiapo, albeit to a lesser extent.
Copiapo Valley Agricultural Producers and Exporters Association (APECO) president Lina Arrieta told www.freshfruitportal.com growers were delighted with the rains.
Chile's far northern regions have suffered from two weather-related disasters so far this year, with flooding hitting Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo regions in March, leaving three people dead, and heavy rainfall and snow hitting farming operations in the Copiapo Valley in July.
"We have not had any problems with these recent rains, thank God," Arrieta said.
"We had some snow in the higher sectors and in the mountains, which is really important for our water reserves."
The APECO head mentioned progress had been slow in correcting the damage from the heavy snow in July, with only 30 hectares of grapevines that collapsed under the weight of the snow having been recovered from a total of 196 hectares.
As for grape growers in Copiapo who had not seen their crops damaged by weather events this year, Arrieta said the outlook was now stable for the rest of the winter.
"We are the first region of Chile to export grapes in the season, with shipments due to begin toward the end of November," she said.
"We are currently in the budding stage and what could still cause us losses would be very low temperatures, but as of this moment everything is fine with the climate."