Chile declares agricultural emergency in four key fruit-growing regions
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera on Thursday decreed a drought-related agricultural emergency in the Coquimbo, Valparaiso, O'Higgins, and Maule regions to mobilize resources to help the farmers most affected by the drought.
"For this drought, we have set up an emergency fund of over US$10 million. Climate change forces us to be prepared," Agriculture Minister Maria Undurraga pointed out, adding that water shortages require short and long-term measures to ensure food security for the population.
Although the Agricultural Development Institute (INDAP) supports small farmers in the irrigation of their crops, this organization's resources are insufficient to fight the great challenge of water scarcity. Therefore, Undurraga proposed to support small farmers by allowing them to pay proportionally for their irrigation systems.
"A redefinition of beneficiaries should be enhanced to allow 98 percent of INDAP resources to go exclusively to farmers that have less than 80 hectares of land," she stressed, adding that public bodies with responsibility for water management should better coordinate their efforts in this regard.
"The Piñera administration shall promote more initiatives for the environmental care and ensure the effectiveness, functionality, and quality of these processes," Undurraga stated. Experts say fewer rains than expected occurred in August, although frontal systems left rainfalls in southern and central Chile.
According to the environmental NGO Greenpeace, Chile is the country that has the worst water crisis in the Western Hemisphere. Seventy-six percent of its territory is affected by the lack of water due to the lack of rainfall and the State's management model of water resources, which are considered a private good and not prioritized for consumption.
Jorge Valenzuela Trebilcock, president of the Federation of Fruit Producers of Chile (Fedefruta), said: "It is tremendously valuable that resources are being allocated to help the producers who are more complicated in the regions of Coquimbo, Valparaíso, O'Higgins and Maule, due to this drought that is in its most critical moments".
"The declaration of agricultural emergency is a necessary and urgent aid for farmers, and we hope that this will soon be extended to other areas. We accompany the Ministry of Agriculture in all these measures."
He added that "we have to decide now on public policies and investment in water infrastructure, a strategic water plan to respond to all the needs of the country".