MONTEVIDEO -- The Uruguayan government approved $3 million for an agricultural and stockraising emergency fund to be used for buying livestock feed and in other ways help farmers deal with the worst drought in decades, official sources announced.
Most of the money is being set aside for purchasing cattle feed in Argentina and in improving some watering holes.
The cattle feed will be distributed from the middle of next week at headquarters of various farming associations, the minister of livestock, agriculture and fisheries, Ernesto Agazzi, said.
The minister was received Thursday by the Congress of Governors, made up of heads of the nation's 19 provincial governments, with whom he analyzed the grave drought afflicting Uruguay and the implementation of measures to aid small and medium-sized producers.
Also taking part in the meeting was the deputy secretary of the presidency, Jorge Vazquez, brother of Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, and authorities of the OSE state potable water company.
The government has received harsh criticism in recent weeks from the opposition and farming associations for the delay in taking measures to deal with the drought.
But the president of the Rural Federation, Octacilio Echenagusia, said Thursday that the measures announced by the authorities "take the heat off and lower the atmosphere of tension."
Besides the emergency fund, the government prepared to delay social-security tax collections from farmers.
At the same time several regional governments, particularly from the central provinces hardest hit by the drought, announced special facilities for paying farm taxes in installments.
According to associations of milk and meat producers, losses from the drought are running at $200 million.
Due to the lack of rain, the harvests of fruit and vegetables have diminished while their prices in the market have increased notably in the past few days.
On Wednesday it rained in several areas in the northern part of the country, but the water was not sufficient to dispel the drought, the worst in 80 years in some Uruguayan provinces.