Opinion

El Niño's Impact on Colombian Agriculture

Maize (Corn)
Published Jan 16, 2024
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Climate change significantly impacted Colombian agriculture, leading to biodiversity shifts and changes in crop production conditions. Extreme weather events and the ongoing El Niño phenomenon contribute to estimated annual losses of USD 42.91 million. The IMPACT model projects a 9.4% growth in maize production by 2030, but climate change reduces this to 4.5%. The coffee sector faced a deficit in 2022/23, with declines in Colombia and Vietnam, which were partly offset by Brazil's recovery. El Niño in 2023 raised concerns for soybean cultivation, affecting yields due to water stress and changing climate conditions. Despite challenges, Colombia experienced a 6% increase in transitional crop planting in the first half of 2023, driven by significant growth in soybean cultivation.

El Niño exerts substantial climate effects, causing disruptions in weather patterns and impacting global agriculture. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officially announced the onset of El Niño in Jun-23. As the warming intensified leading into the Northern Hemisphere winter, it brought varied consequences to Latin America, contributing to estimated economic losses of USD 28 billion over a span of 20 years.

The Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) declared the El Niño phenomenon in Colombia in Nov-23, following five consecutive quarters of elevated Pacific Ocean temperatures. The warming Pacific Ocean has led to increased temperatures and reduced rainfall, prompting the government to allocate a budget of USD 2.7 million (COP 2.2 billion) for emergency response, focusing on 176 vulnerable municipalities. A campaign, 'El Niño is not a game,' has been launched to inform and prepare communities for potential impacts, emphasizing water conservation, forest fire prevention, and climate resilience.

Impact of Climate Change and El Niño on Maize Production

Climate change has adversely impacted farmers and maize cultivation, leading to shifts in biodiversity, agroecological zones, and crop production conditions. Rising prices of essential grains like maize, rice, wheat, and soybeans are limiting access to these staples, which are crucial for the populations of many developing countries, including Colombia. Colombian agriculture is significantly affected by climate variability and change, with estimated losses of USD 42.91 million (COP 168 billion) per year since 2018 due to extreme events. Furthermore, the El Niño phenomenon, associated with reduced rainfall and increased temperatures, has resulted in losses of around USD 2.06 million for Colombia between 1997 and 2016. Calculations for 2023 are ongoing.. These losses encompass variations in crop yields, reduced river flows, heightened forest fire risks, and potential water rationing for irrigation and consumption.

Incorporating land availability, allocation to irrigated and rainfed production, and yield models, the International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT) modelprojects a 9.4% growth in maize production by 2030 in the status quo scenario (SSP2). However, the expected growth is limited to 4.5% year-on-year (YoY) when factoring in climate change. Socioeconomic scenarios, excluding climate change, indicate a less substantial impact on production growth, showing a 9.9% increase in optimistic and 8.7% in pessimistic scenarios. Climate change diminishes the growth rate to 3.5% in an optimistic scenario and 4.7% in a pessimistic scenario.

Source: Fenalce

Production is forecasted to increase in all scenarios, but climate change negatively affects growth, particularly when combined with socioeconomic factors. The negative impact is amplified, primarily on yield levels, leading to only half of the potential growth in total maize production by 2030.

Colombian Coffee Production, Consumption, and Challenges in 2022/23 and Outlook for 2023/24

The coffee year 2022/23 concluded with a global deficit of 3.16 million 60-kilogram (kg) bags, as world coffee production reached 167.07 million 60-kg bags, a 4.6% increase from the previous year but insufficient to meet the 170.22 million 60-kg bags of global consumption. The rise was due to Brazil's recovery, with a crop increase from 53.5 to 61.5 million 60-kg bags, counterbalanced by declines in Colombia and Vietnam due to high fertilizer prices and adverse weather. For the upcoming coffee marketing year (MY) 2023/24, world production is expected to grow by 4.8% to 175.09 million 60-kg bags, with Brazil and Colombia showing significant increases. Consumption is forecasted to reach 172.49 million 60-kg bags, leading to a surplus of 2.6 million bags, 9.1% lower than the previous year.

In Colombia, adverse weather resulted in a 9.1% decline in coffee production to 10.6 million bags in 2022/23. This is attributed to the La Niña phenomenon between 2020 and 2022, characterized by excessive rainfall and resulting in floods and landslides, and El Niño, which started in Nov-23 with rising temperatures nationwide. Domestic consumption decreased by 4% to 2.2 million 60-kg bags due to consumer inflation, leading to a shift towards lower-cost beverage alternatives. Exports reached 10.3 million 60-kg bags, a 12.9% YoY drop, with North America being the primary market at 51.7%, followed by Europe at 26.8%, and Asia at 19.3%. The export value fell 22.4% to USD 3.5 billion compared to the previous year. Despite facing challenges, Colombia remains a key player in the global coffee market, navigating through production setbacks caused by unfavorable weather conditions.

Source:Fedecafé

El Niño's Impact on Colombian Soybean Cultivation in 2023

El Niño in 2023 raised concerns for soybean cultivation in Colombia. The associated dry and warm conditions led to adverse effects on soybean production. Reduced precipitation levels and higher temperatures resulted in water stress, hampering soybean growth, pod development, and overall yields. In addition, the changing climate influences the prevalence of pests and diseases, posing challenges to soybean crops. However, farmers adapted to shifts in growing seasons and potential disruptions in water supply, emphasizing the importance of monitoring weather forecasts and implementing strategies to mitigate the impact of El Niño on soybean cultivation in various regions of Colombia.

In the first half of 2023, Colombia experienced a 6% increase in transitional crop planting, totaling over 1.27 million hectares (ha), as revealed by Municipal Agricultural Evaluations (EVA). Among the crops, cereals dominated 58% of the area, notably led by soybeans, which exhibited an 86.7% YoY growth. The surge in soybean cultivation, particularly in Altillanura, Valle Del Cauca, and Piedemonte llanero, was attributed to favorable international prices and heightened demand.

Source: Fenalce

Colombia Prepares for 2024 Amidst El Niño, Focusing on Critical Water Conservation Measures

Colombia is entering the response phase to the El Niño phenomenon, triggering a red alert for forest fires due to widespread droughts. President Gustavo Petro anticipates 2024 to be one of the hottest years globally. Emphasizing water as a critical resource, the president urged mayors, governors, and the national government to prioritize its conservation.

Furthermore, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development announced the establishment of a National Crisis Room to monitor emergencies, with a focus on Magdalena, La Guajira, Cesar, and Boyacá are identified as priority departments due to their vulnerability. The crisis response aims to address the heightened risk of forest fires, with 747 municipalities on red alert and projections indicating El Niño effects until Apr-24, with Feb-24 being particularly critical. Authorities have emphasized coordinated efforts to mitigate the impact on agriculture and communities.

As of W2, the ongoing El Niño phenomenon has intensified the dry season, leading to a notable precipitation deficit and increased temperatures, especially in the Andean, Caribbean, Pacific regions, and certain areas of the Orinoco. Lastly, significant rain is anticipated as El Niño ends between Apr-24 and May-24, and the season transitions, gradually diminishing the phenomenon's intensity by Jun-24.

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