Snowstorms and frosts in the high areas of the Argentine Patagonia Rio Negro province could cause the death of 70% of the flock, according to estimates from the provincial Livestock Secretariat, Tabaré Bassi.
Together with technicians from the Agriculture Technology Institute, INTA, officials made a first estimate of losses in the snow covered highlands next to the cordillera, but will have to wait until October to have a more exact estimate. Any how we are talking of at least 100,000 sheep and 5,000 cattle.
Bassi called for prudence in assessing the dimension of the losses, but did admit that the victims of the intense snow fall followed by frosts are mostly small farmers, with flocks no larger than 250 head, which makes it a serious survival challenge.
We estimate that the worse losses are along the mountainous terrain between 1,000 and 1,300 meters above sea level, while at sea level we can expect sheep mortality in the range of 30%.
On the positive side Bassi said that the snow in the lower lands will help a strong resurge of pastures during spring.
Nevertheless Bassi insisted that the main problem are the small farmers in the highlands who make some money out of wool and survive winter feeding on mutton, and we will have to give them some sort of support.
Rio Negro province senator Alberto Weretilneck presented an initiative in Congress requesting an extraordinary economic aid for these farmers, which is one of the conditions considered in the Sheep Farming Recovery Fund, when there is an agriculture emergency caused by adverse climatic conditions.
The Senator recalled that the province has already declared an agriculture emergency, and it is urgent and necessary to implement measures that will allow to address the current situation, which could worsen according to the latest weather forecasts.
Besides the provincial agriculture emergency, the federal Agriculture and Livestock secretary also declared a similar condition, which should make the approval initiative to be passed by Congress more rapidly, insisted Senator Weretilneck.
The lawmaker also proposed that wool exports from Rio Negro province should benefit from zero export duties, which currently stand at 5% and 7% for greasy wool.