13 January 2009

Hot and dry

We're suffering a drought, as is most of the country, especially the agricultural productive areas. It rained last night, and might rain again today a bit, but it was an isolated phenomenon. Right here in Rosario it's still not as bad as it was last year, when grass everywhere was reduced to brittle, desiccated brown fragments and finely-powdered dirt was blowing from exposed patches everywhere, but there are serious problems in the north.

Eppur si bagna The Paraná's water level is so low you can see the pipes that drain the rain into the river, lying on the sand in the beaches of the northern city. People still go and bathe there, but the usable area has shrunk; five or six meters from the current shoreline, the river starts to get deep and dangerous.

Upstream, in the dry north of Santa Fe, the situation is dramatic. Neither people nor cattle have enough water for themselves, and the crops are dying. Ironically, northern Santa Fe used to be an area of wetlands and forests, but already in the late 19th century logging companies felled a lot of trees (quebracho, mostly) and then the wetlands were drained by canals to avoid floods. After 2002, when soybean became the star crop, agriculture expanded to the area, and cattle were also moved there from the south. But when you remove a forest, you leave the terrain subject to erosion, and without major watercourses you're tied to rainfall.

The drought will reduce the production of most crops. Maize and soybean were planted late because of this, and coupled with a lower yield, that means Argentina will produce a lot less of both (making things worse, the government continues to place administrative obstacles on crop exports, and the international price of agricultural commodities has decreased dramatically). Wheat production has plummeted to about half of the 2007–2008 harvest. Cattle farming is also suffering; the animals languish and die of starvation or thirst, and often farmers prefer to slaughter cows and sell them for what they might be worth. This year there will be one million less calves.

Hmm... still no rain over here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.