MEXICO CITY – The severe drought affecting 22 of Mexico’s 32 states has caused a 40 percent drop in agricultural production, opening the way for food shortages over the next few months, the National Peasants Confederation, or CNC, said.
The assistance promised by President Felipe Calderon’s administration to those affected by the 9-month-old drought is insufficient, the CNC, Mexico’s main peasant organization and an ally of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, said in a statement.
President Felipe Calderon has vowed to do everything within the government’s power to help those suffering from the drought.
Calderon ordered the disbursement last month of 33.82 billion pesos (about $2.5 billion) to help states in central and northern Mexico affected by the drought.
The funds will be used to fix and improve the systems that supply water to residents of drought-stricken areas, as well as to provide food to communities affected by the natural disaster.
The Indians living in the Sierra Tarahumara region of the northern state of Chihuahua are among the groups most affected by Mexico’s worst drought in 71 years.
The drought has ravaged Indian communities, destroying crops and forcing thousands of peasants to leave their ancestral lands and head to the cities.
“As of last November, corn production was at barely 42 percent of the volume projected for 2011, and bean production was only 41 percent,” CNC president Gerardo Sanchez said.
Corn and beans are staples in the Mexican diet and shortages could lead to speculation, sending the prices of these commodities soaring, the CNC said.
“Of the 4.2 million people who fell into food poverty from 2008 to 2010, nearly 75 percent (about 3 million)” live in rural areas, the CNC said.
“The peasant sector finds itself abandoned to its own fate” by the Calderon administration, Sanchez said.
The drought will probably last “until at least the middle of the year,” causing a new wave of families to head from the countryside to the cities in search of work, Sanchez, who has a seat in Congress from Guanajuato state, said.
A total of 250,000 high-protein food packages have already been handed out and the government plans to ensure that food is available in the 19 states hit by the drought, the government said last month.
An additional 20,000 food packages will be provided to residents of Chihuahua, one of the states hit the hardest by the drought, federal officials said. EFE