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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

23 February 2007

Severe flooding in Bolivia Food crisis may worsen

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Heavy precipitations from the end of December have resulted in widespread floods affecting seven of nine departments in Bolivia, with losses of human lives and serious damage to infrastructure, housing and agriculture. At the end of January, the Government declared a state of emergency and appealed for international assistance. By February 21, according to the National Service of Civil Defense, up to 350.000 people had been affected, but this number may increase if water levels continue rising, especially in eastern departments of Beni and Santa Cruz.

The heavy rains affected cereals (mainly maize and rice), potatoes and other food crops), as well as the important soy crop of the 2007 main season, planted last October/November, and to be harvested from mid-March. Until a detailed assessment becomes available, early estimates of losses point to about 70.000 hectares of food and cash crops and more than 11.000 head of cattle. Worst affected departments include Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Tarija and Beni, which account for about 80 percent of annual rice and maize production. Severe problems of food insecurity are foreseen for riverine communities already entering the lean period with very limited food stocks from the previous season, and beset with total crop failure.

With lost roads and bridges, food prices are rising fast in many wholesale markets. In the major market of Santa Cruz city, for example, potato and vegetable prices have reportedly increased by 30-40 percent in a few days due to reduced supplies from Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Tarija. If food flows are not quickly restored, the crisis will worsen both in terms of food availability and access.

The situation needs to be closely monitored; the National Meteorological Service forecasts continued heavy rains until early March and the arrival of a cold front from Argentina, which could damage crops, especially in the highlands.