A severe drought in central north Argentine provinces has caused the death of 700.00 livestock, hampered milk production and delayed sowing wheat and sunflower in other regions of the country, according to farmers' organisations leaders.
"The situation is most complicated; this is the worst drought in years and has extended to several areas of the country", said Omar Brachetta chairman of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, FAA, who added that relief aid to the tune of 160 million US dollars had been requested from the administration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The loss of cattle and rain deficit is mostly concentrated to the north of Buenos Aires province, Santa Fe, Cordoba, Chaco, La Pampa and Santiago del Estero, in the heart of Argentina's farmland. Another province experiencing a similar situation is in Patagonia, to the extreme south of the country, Santa Cruz which hasn't seen a drop of water for months. "Cattle breeding has been worst hit, not only have we lost thousands of cows but also sheep in Patagonia. We simply don't have the sufficient water reserves", added Brachetta who anticipated farmers have scheduled an agenda of public assemblies and demonstrations in demand of support to face the calamitous situation. Further south, the Argentine Confederation of Rural Associations confirmed that in Buenos Aires and La Pampa provinces the lack of rains has delayed the sowing of wheat and sunflowers. A regional report from the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture admits that in some counties "no sunflower" has been planted and in others rain is urgently needed for the survival of the cultivation. The Buenos Aires Grains and Oilseeds market reported in its climate release that the "most of the central and western farmlands run the risk of a delayed arrival of the very necessary humidity component which soils are expecting". Dairy farms are also under stress because of the lack of water and scarce pastures to feed milking cows, warned Nestor Roulet, vicepresident of Argentine Rural Confederations, CRA. Barchetta said that the funds request is geared "to avoid the deepening of the recession in many farm towns and helping to sustain employment", He warned that the impact of the drought will be felt in grains prices and lesser milk delivery. Argentina is a leading world exporter of soy, soy pellets and flour, oil, wheat, corn and sunflower. Farm exports in Argentina are equivalent to over 35 billion US dollars, half the country's overseas shipments. Carlos Cheppi, Agriculture minister in a release announced the government was preparing relief measures for drought-stricken farmers at "the specific request of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner" and in this regard he has consulted with governors of Chaco, Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, La Pampa and Córdoba provinces, to all of whom he has expressed his concern about the effects of the drought. Cheppi also confirmed the renewal of milk-product exports and expressed his confidence that an agreement could be reached with this sector. In related news Ricardo Echegaray, the head of the Argentine state agency that regulates agricultural exports announced the partial reopening for high value beef under the terms of the Hilton quota Echegaray explained that "20% of what each exporter was authorised to export in the previous period (2007-2008) will be allowed and these will be advances which won't generate rights with regard to the Hilton quota proper. All of this will be authorised by (agriculture secretary Carlos Cheppi.) within 15 days". Only exporters who used 100% of their export quota in 2007-2008 will be eligible to apply for the new batch of export permits. "Firms that did not use their full quota in this period will have to provide valid reasons for their having failed to do so before they can apply for the new 20% advance." said Echagaray.