Record drought hits Costa Rica, Central America’s crops and cattle

August 11th, 2014 (ISH) Central American agriculture ministers held a videoconference on August 7 to seek coordinated actions to cope with a major drought that has hit the region.

The drought has killed thousands of cattle, dried up crops and forced cities to ration electricity.

Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala have declared emergencies in the worst-affected areas to speed up aid delivery. El Salvador and Nicaragua have opened special funds to help farmers.

The current drought in Costa Rica is the worst in 75 years, according to the National Meteorological Institute (IMN).  Especially hard-hit is Costa Rican’s northern Guanacaste province.

Meanwhile, in northern Nicaragua, vultures are eating the carcasses of cows that are dropping dead in dried out pastures.

The lack of rain has been blamed on the probable arrival of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is characterized by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures that can trigger droughts.

The drought has swept across a region known as “the dry corridor,” which covers nearly a third of Central America, where 10 million people live, according to a 2013 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nicaragua’s government says the country is enduring its worst drought since 1976.

The first harvest, which takes place between May and August, has yielded nothing, according to Nicaragua’s national farmers and ranchers union. Some 2,500 cattle have died and 700,000 more are in critical health as they roam dry pastures.

Honduras’ rainy season is usually from May to November, but not this year. The drought has decimated 70 percent of corn crops and 45 percent of beans, affecting 72,000 families.

The Honduran state energy company said it was rationing power for up to four hours a day in several cities because of low water levels in dams that power hydro-electric plants.

El Salvador has lost one-tenth of its corn harvest. Guatemala estimates agricultural losses amount to US$45 million, affecting 120,000 families.

Costa Rica’s livestock and crop farmers have suffered losses totaling US$24 million.

Inside Costa Rica contributed to this report.

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    • toolman78

      My question is, why are these cattle farmers waiting till their cattle lose weight, let alone starve to death? When they saw that their livestock was running out of pasture, why weren’t these ranchers selling at least parts of the herd to make the remaining pasture last longer? Forgetting about the obvious cruelty of it, it makes no economic sense either. And waiting till they starve to death is just wrong for so many reasons.

      • mhogan

        No worries, they’ll be subsidized for their losses. If they were to sell off some livestock, can’t cry “help me”. Then we’ll all pay more anyway for meat and dairy.

        • toolman78

          That’s new to me. Who’s going to be making those payments?

          • mhogan

            Well, you’re an expat. No subsidy for you because you don’t cry big enough tears. The consumers will be paying increases in meat and dairy.

      • Lav

        Ummm who is going to buy them? The neighbour who doesn’t have any pasture or crops because they are also in a drought?

        Brains on people, brains on.

        • toolman78

          The cattle auction in Santa Cruz just sold like 1500 head of cattle a couple weeks ago.Mine were part of that. I sold then when they were still well fed but nearly out of grass. I imagine that all through Guanacaste the auctions are going well. Sure this is driving the price down, but better to sell cheap than not at all. It’s not all of Central America that’s affected by the drought. It’s only a relatively small section. Plenty of cattle will get bought by ranchers who own land that isn’t suffering from the drought. Not to mention a lot of beef from Guanacaste get’s exported for cheap ground beef and that’s a huge market that won’t even get close to getting saturated..

          • Lav

            Did you really just compare your well fed cattle to those cows dying of starvation?

            • toolman78

              You do realize that those starving cattle were at on point probably just as well fed as mine were. And doesn’t take too much intellect to anticipate problems long before your pasture is depleted. Cattle auctions are held weekly or even twice weekly nearly everywhere I’m aware of. So, to answer your question, no, I’m not comparing cattle. I was comparing my action of selling my cattle before they ran out of food to that of those farmers who, rather than sell some cattle, would let them starve to death.

            • Lav

              Yes because droughts are very predictable…