Colombia Not Using 65% of its Arable Land
The Unit of Rural Agro-economic Planning (UPRA) reported that only 35 percent of Colombia’s 11.3 million hectares of farmland is being used efficiently.
“Colombia has enormous agricultural potential, but is far from using it efficiently,” explained Felipe Fonseca Fine, director of UPRA.
The review conducted by the UPRA highlights various examples of large areas of land that are currently being misused. For example, in the department of Amazonas, which has almost 11,000 hectares, only 0.9 percent are used with 0.5 percent dedicated to livestock and the remaining 0.4 percent for agriculture.
Even though Amazon soil is typically low in nutrients and therefore not ideal for farming, the UPRA has identified 22,915 hectares that are suitable for commercial forest plantations.
In addition to Amazonas, UPRA also identified the province of Antioquia as a potential area for agricultural use. 20.5 percent of the land in the province is suitable for farming but it again suffers from pervasive misuse with agriculture well developed only in 46 percent of the region.
The UPRA underline the suitability of numerous areas for plantations of rubber, potato, palm oil, corn and rice.
Other Colombian regions identified as falling short of their agricultural potential include Cordoba 32.9%, Cundinamarca 38% and Valle de Cauca 54%, with the report surmising that “both export and food security are compelling reasons to increase productivity in the countryside.”
The shortfall in Colombia’s agricultural potential is major factor for why they are importing 28.5 percent of the food consumed by Colombian households, according to reports by the Agricultural Society of Colombia (SAC).
According to Rafael Mejia, president of the SAC, Colombia’s agricultural balance-sheet is characterised by the production of “32,016.861 tonnes and apparent of consumption is 38,910.992 tonnes.”
Additionally, Colombian farmers claim that the domestic agricultural market will struggle to compete with foreign imports, especially as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the USA.
“This latest report further highlights the existence of a disgruntled farming population who are heavily critical of the Santos administration for their perceived negligence of the rural economy,” explains John Kennedy, Senior Vice President of Industrials of Challenge Advisory.
Farmers are already denouncing President Santos for failing to adhere to promises made in negotiations that concluded a major agricultural strike in 2013.
The strike threatened urban food supplies and was only ended when farmers’ organisations and Santos’s administration agreed to a course of action that would stimulate the rural economy, a sector that has been struggling for years by the administration’s own admission.