Colombia’s agricultural minister said Wednesday the government is prepared to deal with the “El Niño” phenomena and subsequent summer heat that has raised temperatures throughout the country.
Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo noted food reserves must be increased to compensate for possible price hikes in the event of a very hot summer, slowing agricultural production. “We are taking measures of precaution to guarantee the food supplies, even if this will mean that we have to vouch for the imports. But I don’t think it will be necessary,” said Restrepo to radio station Caracol.
The agricultural ministry is already preparing to import of 35,000 tons of rice to meet fluctuations in supply and demand due to El Niño. Restrepo denied that the imports would flood the country’s domestic market, noting that only 79,000 tons could enter tariff-free under the recently-signed free trade agreement with the United States.
“In a likely case like that of a rise, only a limited amount would enter– 79,000 tons– without paying custom duties. This is the equivalent of the national consumption over 8 days,” Restrepo concluded.
Colombia’s state-run Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies predicted that the current high-temperatures resulting from the weather phenomena will affect Colombia until September.
El Niño is “characterized by a large scale weakening of the trade winds and warming of the surface layers in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean,” according to the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Project.
Earlier in June President Santos called on Colombians to cut back on their water usage in the wake of the early onset of the country’s dry season and the country’s increasing temperatures.