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22 billion dollars in ten years: the cost of agricultural losses from disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean

Droughts had the greatest impact in the region according to a new FAO report. CELAC has published the text of its regional disaster risk reduction strategy.

Banana plantation destroyed by a hurricane in Cuba ©FAO/Granma

March 29, 2018, Santiago, Chile - In Latin America and the Caribbean, drought was the most expensive type of disaster between 2005 and 2015, causing losses in crops and livestock of US $ 13 billion, according to a new report  of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean was the third most affected by disasters in the world, after Africa and Asia, with losses that reached 22 billion dollars in a period of ten years.

In the region, agricultural losses increased considerably between 2010 and 2015, with sharp increases in 2012 and 2014 as a result of severe episodes of drought related to La Niña, which devastated crops in Argentina and Brazil in 2012 and much of Central America in 2014 , especially crops and livestock in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

In terms of crops, the most affected by disasters between 2005 and 2015 were legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, with losses close to USD 8 billion.

Latin America and the Caribbean is better prepared thanks to CELAC strategy

To prevent the emergence of new disaster risks and reduce the existing ones, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) created its Strategy for Disaster Risk Management in the Agricultural Sector and Food Security, whose full text can be consulted from today. .

The strategy covers the period 2017-2030 and proposes integrated and inclusive economic, financial, legal, social, environmental and technological measures to strengthen the resilience of countries and their communities.

The strategy will also allow countries to comprehensively address transboundary threats and work together in geographic spaces with common agroecological characteristics.

It has four priorities: understanding disaster risk; strengthen risk governance; invest in disaster risk reduction for resilience; and improve preparedness for an effective response and for better recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. (see explanatory video by Anna Ricoy, FAO Risk Management Officer).

Impacts at a global level

According to the global report published by the FAO, natural disasters cost the agricultural sectors of the economies of developing countries the alarming figure of 96 billion US dollars in damages to agricultural and livestock production. Half of these losses - worth 48 billion dollars - occurred in Asia.

The drought - which has recently hit farmers in the four corners of the planet - has been one of the main culprits. Up to 83 percent of all economic losses caused by the drought documented by the FAO study corresponded to agriculture, at a cost of 29 billion US dollars.

"The agricultural sectors, which include agricultural and livestock production, as well as forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, face many risks, such as the volatility of the weather and the market, pests and diseases, extreme weather events and an increasing number of crises and protracted conflicts, "warned the Director General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva.

The geography of disaster

In Asia, the region of the world where agriculture has been most affected by disasters, floods and storms caused the greatest impacts, but Asian agricultural systems were also badly affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and extreme temperatures.

Both in Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean, drought is the most expensive type of disaster, causing losses in crops and livestock of US $ 10 700 million and US $ 13 billion in those regions, respectively, between 2005 and 2015.

And throughout the planet, small island developing states (SIDS) are very vulnerable to natural disasters, particularly tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and floods. The economic losses in SIDS generated by disasters increased from 8,800 million US dollars in the 2000-2007 period to more than 14,000 million between 2008 and 2015, according to the report.

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