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Country Briefs

  Colombia

Reference Date: 15-July-2020

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Harvesting of 2020 main cereal crops underway and above‑average rice production expected

  2. Cereal import requirements in 2020 forecast to remain at high levels

  3. Prices of cereals higher year on year, mainly due to high production costs and weak local currency

  4. Prevalence of food insecurity among Venezuelan migrants residing in the country likely to have increased due to COVID‑19 pandemic

Harvesting of 2020 main cereal crops underway and above‑average rice production expected

Harvesting of the 2020 main season paddy crop started recently and will be completed in October. Production is expected at an above‑average level due to an expansion in sowings, driven by high domestic prices as a result of strong local demand. Yields are also expected to be above average, reflecting adequate water supplies for crops in both irrigations (in Tolima and Huila departments) and adequate soil moisture reserves in rainfed areas (in Llanos Orientales region). The 2020 paddy production, including the average minor season harvested between January and April, is forecast at 2.8 million tonnes, nearly 10 percent above the previous five‑year average.

Harvesting of the 2020 main maize crop is ongoing. Production is expected at a below‑average level due to low yields in the main producing northern Antioquia and Caribbean areas, which were affected by persistent dry weather conditions and high temperatures during the planting and crop development stages. These localized production shortfalls more than offset the favourable production prospects in other producing areas of Central Andean and Llanos Orientales regions. Overall, the 2020 maize production, including the average minor season output harvested in the first quarter of 2020, is forecast at 1.4 million tonnes, slightly below the previous five‑year average.

In order to support the farming sector amid concerns over the negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the food supply, the Government launched a financial scheme of COP 1.5 trillion (about USD 370 million at the exchange rate as of 31 March) in late March, which provides agricultural credits at low interest rates. About 80 percent of the funds were allocated to benefit small and medium farmers. The Government also removed the tariffs for specified imported agricultural inputs , mainly fertilizers and pesticides, for a period of two years starting from late June 2020, with the aim to lower production costs.

Cereal import requirements in 2020 forecast to remain at high levels

About 85 percent of the country’s cereal consumption needs are covered by imports. Cereal imports in the 2020 marketing year (January/December) are forecast at 8.5 million tonnes, nearly 15 percent above the previous five‑year average. Imports of maize, which normally account for 70 percent of the total shipments, are forecast at 6 million tonnes, about 18 percent above the average, reflecting a strong demand for yellow maize by the feed industry and an expected low output in 2020. Similarly, imports of wheat are anticipated at an above‑average level of 2 million tonnes.

In late March, the Government enacted a series of policies to guarantee the national supplies of cereals, notably the suspension of tariffs for yellow maize, sorghum and soybeans imports for a period of three months, starting from April 2020. Similarly, the zero tariff regime for imports of wheat grain and products was extended for an additional two years.

Prices of cereals higher year on year, mainly due to high production costs and weak local currency

After reaching record highs in April 2020, prices of rice levelled off in May and started to decline in June due to improved market availabilities from the ongoing main crop harvest. However, prices of rice in June were still over 40 percent higher than their year‑earlier values, mainly reflecting the upsurge in retail demand amid the COVID‑19 pandemic and high production costs, underpinned by the depreciation of the local currency.

Prices of yellow maize also declined in June 2020 reflecting improved domestic availabilities from the recently completed minor season harvests, while prices of wheat flour were generally stable during the second quarter of 2020. However, prices of both commodities, mostly imported, were higher year on year due to a weaker currency.

Prevalence of food insecurity among Venezuelan migrants residing in the country likely to have increased due to COVID‑19   pandemic

As of June 2020, Colombia is the main host country of refugees and migrants from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, estimated at nearly 1.8 million and 35 percent of the total Venezuelans that fled the country since 2015. According to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crisis, about 900 000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants were estimated to be food insecure and in need of assistance prior to the COVID‑19 pandemic. However, the prevalence of food insecurity among the migrant households is expected to increase due to the loss of income generation activities amidst the containment measures put in place in the country since mid‑March. The deterioration of livelihoods triggered returns to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which will likely increase their socio‑economic vulnerability.

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