Colombia's heavy rains seen pouring into mid-2023 -government

BOGOTA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Heavy rains in Colombia associated with the La Nina weather phenomenon, which led the government to declare a disaster, could last until the middle of next year, the national unit for managing risks and disasters (UNGRD) said on Tuesday.

Downpours in Colombia have left 216 dead with 48 people missing so far in 2022, while more than 538,000 people have been affected, according to government statistics.

La Nina - when sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean cool below normal levels - usually leads to increased rainfall in Colombia.

The Andean country declared the situation a disaster at the start of November, allowing the government to funnel some $433.8 million to meet the needs of those affected and begin repair work where needed.

"The situation could get very complicated if the rainy season continues to March, because it could last until June, or even July," said UNGRD director Javier Pava. "This is very critical for the country."

President Gustavo Petro said recently that rainfall seen in 2022 is at its highest level in the last 40 years, with floods destroying crops and causing food prices to rise.

In response, the government plans to provide a monthly subsidy of around $100 each to 1.2 million mothers so they can feed their children, and ordered the construction of bridges by Colombia's military industry to ensure movement nationwide.

It will also pay a 100% subsidy for fertilizers used in food production, including coffee.

Colombia's 12-month inflation hit 12.22% in October, largely due to food price rises attributed to heavy rain.

The world's leading producer of washed Arabica coffee, Colombia expects to close 2022 with coffee production at 12 million 60-kilogram bags, the lowest level in the last eight years, due to the inclement weather.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Oliver Griffin Editing by Mark Heinrich

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