Colombia’s Society of Agricultural Workers (SAC) reported that April 2016 set a 20-year record for food imports, in both amount and value. When compared to last year’s figures, this year’s month of April showed a 73% increase in amount of food imported and a 21.2% increase in the total value of imports.
The products which showed the sharpest increases in imports were corn, soy and palm oil. The latter is the subject of much controversy, the increase comes as a result of a drastic reduction of protectionist measures for oils and oily goods, which cut import tariffs significantly in an effort to combat rising inflation. Fedepalma, Colombia’s palm growers’ union stood in fierce opposition of the move.
It should come as no surprise that Colombia is resorting to imports in agricultural goods, with internal struggles and farmer’s strikes prices for local agricultural produce are at a significant high.
Besides the strikes, the El Niño phenomenon also played a part in increasing prices for locally produced agricultural goods. Considerable droughts decreased yields and reduced the area of fertile grounds.
The Colombian peso’s devaluation against the US dollar was expected to reduce imports significantly, however, despite an unfavorable exchange rate, imported goods are still often cheaper than local goods.
Some measures to reduce dependency on food imports are already in place, the largest one among them, called Colombia Siembra, plans to increase the amount of cultivated land by nearly 2.5 million acres by 2018.
LatinAmerican Post |Pedro Bernal