Drought hits Mexican agriculture and lower agricultural production anticipated

19/04/2021

The drought has worsened in Mexico, affecting almost 84% of the country and hitting the Mexican countryside that is already suffering from the lack of rain in 2020. A problem that anticipates lower agricultural production this year, higher imports, and higher prices.

The condition of this natural phenomenon - drought - in its severe, extreme or exceptional forms has been determined in various basins of the country to date. Image by megamanyou from Pixabay
The condition of this natural phenomenon - drought - in its severe, extreme or exceptional forms has been determined in various basins of the country to date. Image by megamanyou from Pixabay

According to GCMA data, the 210 dams in the country have current reserves of 46.4% of total capacity. In addition, 7 of the 32 states in the country have 16 dams with water for agricultural use (irrigation) and they are currently at only 33.1% of their capacity. This represents a 55% drop compared to last year.

The levels in many of the country's dams are very low, mainly in the states of Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Chihuahua and also in the Bajío region; the lack of water in irrigation areas is a matter of great concern. In addition, the climatic effect of La Niña -related to abundant rainfall and flooding and also droughts-, which will influence low production due to lack of rainfall this year.

In South America, La Niña affected Brazil and Argentina with lower production, strong droughts are expected in the United States for May and in Mexico, this situation has already been reported. The drought will affect the production of basic grains, but also sugar cane, and other agricultural products. In addition to livestock, which will cause damage to producers.

Experts believe that the affectation will be widespread for all sectors that make up the agro-industrial chain in Mexico as the price of crops that decrease rises, affecting production. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), the Mexican inflation rate increased in March to 4.67%, the highest since the end of 2018, after prices rose in the third month of the year by 0.83%.

Existing problems

The problem comes after a rainfall deficit in 2020 - with precipitation 3 % lower than in 2019 - and because of the covid-19 pandemic, which generated additional demand for water in the country, mainly in large populations. As a result, the storage of the country's most important dams was affected; a drought in a desert is normal and not a problem but a drought in highly populated or agricultural areas is worrisome. This year there is also insufficient rainfall, placing it at one of the worst precipitation levels since 1941.

According to the Mexican Drought Monitor, published by Conagua, as of March 31, some 1,295 municipalities in the country were suffering from "moderate to exceptional" drought, while another 488 presented an "abnormally dry" situation. The report indicated that 83.92% of the country is affected by drought.

The drought afflicting the country could become a serious problem if prevention and mitigation measures are not developed and implemented, such as saving water and investing in better use of water. The regions most affected by the effects of drought in Mexico are the northwest and north of the country, as well as Guanajuato, Michoacán, Guerrero, and the northern coast of Oaxaca.

Climate change

But the current drought is not only seen as a climatological anomaly. It is also a symptom of climate change. Both drought and floods are climate changes that directly affect agriculture. The main problem is the industrialized model of food production, which has led to a dependence on pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and even transgenic crops.

These chemicals contaminate the soil and affect its microfauna, which helps to maintain its fertility, leaving impoverished and eroded soils. Due to climate change, the rainy season is altered and global temperatures continue to rise. This also affects Mexico, which currently has more than 80 active forest fires in 23 states, with an affected area of 17,524 hectares.