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Commodity Intelligence Report
March 23, 2012

Rainy Season in Colombia Begins; Concerns about Flooding

The start of the rainy season in Colombia has begun, and they hope it will not be as bad as last year. Over half the departments where crops are grown are at high risk and under the threat of an emergency due to earlier rains in November and December of 2011.

Final estimates from the crops grown in Colombia for the 2011/2012 growing season have not yet been released by the Ministry of Agriculture. The third and final reporting cycle is due out in another month. During the last two years, heavy rains prevailed, causing floods and landslides, overflowing rivers and lakes that affected nearly 80 percent of the nation. Crops have been affected.

The coffee crop is much lower in production in 2011/12 Compared to the previous two seasons, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Food crops such as corn and rice was affected in 2011/12, too. USDA’s March 2012 estimate for Colombian corn production for 2011/12 was at 1550 thousand tons, up from 2010/11 by 7 percent but down 4 percent from 2009/10.

With soil moisture excellent, crop prospects are good; however, concern for landslides, overflowing rivers and flooding is high for Colombia as it enters its winter rainy season. Some areas of Colombia have not recovered from last year’s floods and standing water is still present. There are about 122 areas that have potential problems according to the director of the National Relief Colombian Red Cross, Cesar Uruena. More than 3,700 public work projects need repair in the country from last year’s devastating rainy season. The Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, has stated that it will take more than a year to simply repair roads and mitigate areas affected by landslides and flooding in 2011. Locations with problems include around Magdalena, Sucre, Atlántico, Bolivar, Cesar, Santander, Antioquia, Chocó, and Coffee.

Already, many of the coffee plantations have reported less production due to rains during the end of last year. Coffee is Colombia’s main export and source of income and accounts for 3.5 percent of the country’s GDP and 13.5 percent of its exports. The key concern is the loss of corn and other food crops from the local markets that were affected by flooding at the end of 2011.

In Cordoba, the region around Ayapel continues to be affected by standing water. It is also an area that has been often affected by winter rains in recent years. Flooding in 2011 affected nearly 145,000 hectares of land from overflow from the Cauca River and from the nearby swamp. A threat of flooding still lingers due to the pipeline from the Dosquebradas running through the town of Risaralda and with heavy rains the pipeline broke and flooded surrounding areas. Along the Chocó Riosucio, the Atrato River frequently overflows and in the past has forced half the townspeople out. In Utica, Cundinamarca this lowland has been destroyed by flooding from the Black Creek as was seen in March 2010. Many people have refused to return to the area as it is also prone to landslides. Farming is very difficult in regions where flooding is continuing to occur over the last two years.

After rains in December 2011, Colombia had more than 3,700 public work projects listed to repair the country from last year’s devastating rainy season. One example is around the region of La Cruz in the Atlántico Department. During mid-December, landslides blocked roads and heavy rains hampered rescue attempts of 16 people trapped within houses caught by the landslide. Farmers living in the area were evacuated but some returned to their homes to find changes in the topography of many of their fields.

Figure 1. December 2011 sent heavy rains to the northwestern area of Colombia. Rains this year have been more moderate, thus far. 2011/12 crops have been affected by the flooding.


Colombia’s topography along with extreme and copious rainfall can create problems, according to the Colombian government’s Geology and Mining Institute. The many mountains, large rivers and steep slopes when coupled with rain easily create flooding and landslides. Last year at the end of the first week in December, this combination of topography and weather tested a northeast region of Colombia near Santander where four people died when a landslide buried a bus under tons of rubble during a rain event. At the same time, the road linking Rubio with Las Dantas near the Venezuelan border in the northeast of the country was shut down following 48 hours of constant rainfall, limiting agricultural supplies into the region.

Heavy rains have caused emergency evacuation within the capital, Bogota, in the past. During the first week of December last year, disruptions to major transport routes around Bogota created problems within the city and in transporting food to and around the city when torrential rains over the weekend not only flooded the region but swelled the Bogota River to the point that heavy vehicles had to be diverted from roads around the river.

Heavy rains in Colombia are typically a phenomenon of El Niño years when the sea surface temperatures increase in the Pacific Ocean near South America. However, Colombia’s 2011 flooding has occurred during a La Niña period. The current La Niña phase is weakening and is expected to transition to neutral conditions by the end of April 2012 and back into an El Niño cycle—just as the rainy season in Colombia begins. (For additional information, contact Dr. Denise McWilliams, South American crop analyst at 202-720-0107).

Figure 2. During December 2011, Colombia received heavy rains across much of the country. The rainy season is beginning now in 2012 and many areas may be prone to flooding this winter.

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Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD's Agricultural Production page or at PSD Online.

For more information contact Denise McWilliams | Denise | (202) 720-0107
USDA-FAS, Office of Global Analysis

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