Colombian rice and dairy farmers are on high alert for the negative effects they say free trade deals will bring to certain agricultural sectors of the country, reported Caracol Radio Monday.
Jorge Andres Martinez, manager of Colombia’s dairy farmers association Asoleche, said Colombian milk producers would not be able to survive under the terms of the trade accord with the United States. He said, “we are in a situation of inequality of conditions in the face of competition with dairy from the United States.”
Martinez said unfair situation is due to the U.S. government granting subsidies to farmers and an exchange rate which does not allow the milk producers to be able to compete in a market such as the US.
He said that at least 400,000 small-scale milk producers who earn their living from the sale of small quantities of dairy products could disappear in the face of US competition.
Rafael Hernandez, general manager of Colombia’s rice grower’s federation – Fedearroz – said the situation is very difficult for the rice sector to face the competition that will be generated by the free trade agreement.
“The government negotiated the free trade agreement 5 years ago. We warned of the damage it would bring to the rice sector and requested the exclusion of rice.”
He added that there are close to 500,000 families in 215 municipalities who earn their living from the rice production and they could be affected by the free trade agreement with the United States.
Matinez and Hernandez reiterated the statement of Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo who said that Colombia has a long way to go before is it ready for U.S. and E.U. free trade agreements.