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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 15-June-2021


  1. Favourable production prospects for 2021 paddy and maize crops

  2. Cereal import requirements in 2021 forecast at high levels

  3. Prices of rice well below year‑earlier levels

  4. Rising concerns about adequate access to food in urban areas

  5. High prevalence of food insecurity among Venezuelan refugees and migrants

Favourable production prospects for 2021 paddy and maize crops

The harvest of the 2021 minor paddy crop is ongoing and yields are reportedly at an above‑average level reflecting favourable weather conditions in the main producing departments of Tolima, Huila, Meta and Casanare. The planted area of the minor season is officially estimated at a record level, as the year‑on‑year higher prices at the planting period (between August and November 2020), coupled with adequate weather conditions, prompted farmers to expand sowings.

The 2021 main paddy crop has been recently planted and will be harvested from July. Sowings have likely declined as large supplies from the 2020 record harvest pushed prices down in the first quarter of 2021. However, yield prospects are generally favourable as weather forecasts point to average precipitation and temperatures in the key cropping areas during the July‑August 2021 period. The aggregate 2021 paddy production is preliminarily forecast at 2.86 million tonnes, about 5 percent above the previous five‑year average.

The 2021 main season maize crop is currently at flowering and grain filling stages. According to satellite imagery, crop conditions are overall good in the main producing coastal areas (ASI map). The 2021 aggregate maize production, including the minor season crop harvested in the first quarter of 2021, is forecast slightly above the average at 1.5 million tonnes. This represents an annual increase of 5 percent, prompted by a rebound in plantings.

The high level of plantings and yields of the 2021 cereal crops also reflects the expansion of governmental agricultural support programmes (Juntos por el Campo), launched in August 2020. The programmes aim to provide subsidized agricultural machinery and inputs to smallholder farmers and to improve farmers’ access to credit. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, credit allocation during the first quarter of 2021 increased by 32 percent compared to the same period in 2020.

Cereal import requirements in 2021 forecast at high levels

About 85 percent of the country’s cereal consumption needs are covered by imports. Cereal import requirements in the 2021 marketing year (January/December) are forecast at 8.57 million tonnes, similar to the record level in 2020. The anticipated high level of requirements reflects strong demand for maize by the feed sector and for wheat for human consumption. In responses to the weakening domestic currency, the import tariff for wheat was reduced to zero in mid‑2020 for a period of two years.

Prices of rice well below year‑earlier levels

Prices of rice declined steadily in the first four months of 2021, pressured by large supplies from the record 2020 output and the above‑average 2021 minor season harvest. In May 2021, the declining trend was reversed, as protests and blockades of the country’s main roads disrupted market activities. Despite the month‑on‑month increase, prices in May 2021 were about 25 percent below their year‑earlier levels, reflecting abundant market availabilities.

Prices of yellow maize, mostly imported, increased significantly between March and May 2021, reflecting high international prices and negative effects of the social unrest. As of May 2021, prices of yellow maize were about 8 percent higher than the same month in 2020. By contrast, prices of domestically produced white maize were lower year on year due to adequate supplies from the 2021 minor season harvest.

Rising concerns about adequate access to food in urban areas

Official estimates by the Statistics Department (DANE) indicate that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 6.7 percent in 2020 due to the negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic. In 2020, the poverty rate increased by 6.8 percentage points year on year and about 3.6 million people felt into poverty, especially in urban areas, due to job and income losses during the pandemic.

The reinforcement of lockdown measures in April and May 2021, amid a third COVID‑19 wave, is likely to further affect economic activities and to exert additional pressure on the already eroded household resources. Moreover, a nationwide strike and protests that broke out at the end of April have caused disruptions to trade flows and market activities, with economic losses to the agricultural sector estimated at about COP 1.6 billion (about USD 430 million). Spikes of food prices were registered in some urban markets, notably in Cali, the country’s third largest city, exacerbated by fuel shortages. The negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, together with the ongoing social unrest, raise concerns on adequate access to food, especially by urban vulnerable households.

High prevalence of food insecurity among Venezuelan refugees and migrants

The country hosts the highest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, with a population of 1.74 million people as of May 2021. Prevalence of severe and moderate levels of food insecurity among Venezuelan migrants in the country increased from 52 percent in April 2020 to 71 percent in February 2021 due to the loss of income generating activities amid the COVID‑19 pandemic. Although the increase in the number of migrants is expected to slow down in 2021 compared to 2020, the country’s modest economic recovery is likely to continue to constrain migrants’ access to food.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.