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Colombia's flood economy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 02:31

May 23 - Colombia's expanding agricultural sector is feeling the bite of a harsh ongoing rainy season. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

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The rainy season in Colombia. Colombia's expanding agricultural sector is feeling the bite of a harsh ongoing rainy season. Thousands of acres of crop and grazing pastures are under water with no signs of the rain letting up. Two and a half million acres of farmland have been saturated by the persistent rain. Dairy farmer Horacio Barbosa. SOUNDBITE: Dairy farmer Horacio Barbosa, saying (Spanish): "It saddens me that in just a few hours we're losing what has been 35 years in the making. About 2,000 hectares [4,942 acres] are flooded in the Ubate Valley. This valley produces about a million and a half litres of milk and has been reduced by about 30 percent," Barbosa said. Colombia has been expanding its agricultural output as world food prices rise, and as violence from its decades-long internal conflict fueled by drug profits ebbs. Colombia plans to double agricultural land growing crops for food, transforming the vast eastern plains -- dotted for years with illicit coca plantations -- into the country's bread basket. That was before the rain. Agricultural Minister, Juan Camilo Restrepo. SOUNDBITE: Agricultural Minister, Juan Camilo Restrepo, saying (Spanish): "Coffee and other crops have been severely affected by the winter rains in addition to animal production. 65 percent of the damaging effects from the winter [rainy season] have been felt by the cattle industry and 35 percent in agriculture. Because a large section of the flooded areas have been cattle grounds which has led to an exodus of more than a million heads of cattle," Some of the Andean nation's massive cut flower exporters have also been impacted by the persistent rains. Colombia is the primary provider of cut flowers to the U.S. market and the second largest exporter in the world. Some of its vast flower fields are underwater, nearly wiping out some operations. As Colombia looks to expand the land used in agricultural production, current producers are trying to protect their livelihoods from the rising waters. Nearly three and a half million people have been affected in some way by the heavy rain in 30 of the country's 32 regions. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters

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Colombia's flood economy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 02:31