Livestock Production Suffers $20.8 Million in Losses Due to Drought

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The livestock industry crisis in Guanacaste is not over yet. Three bleak months of drought are coming up, during which small and medium-scale producers must devise a way to sustain their animals, while government actions are feeble and not very encouraging.

In the province of Guanacaste, there are about 20,000 livestock producers, and in 2015, on average about 500 cattle died, mainly in the canton of Santa Cruz, but what most afflicted the herds was the animals’ loss of weight from lack of food and water.

Quantified losses so far in the livestock industry exceed ¢11 billion ($20.8 million).

Despite the drought’s scourge, livestock prices remain stable.

According to Leonardo Murillo, from the research and dissemination department of the Livestock Corporation (CORFOGA- Corporacion Ganadera), the impact is not so much the number of dead animals. It is the reduction in production, loss of fodder and food sources.

“We are coming from two years with a shortage of rain and that has impacted production due to lack of forage and feed for livestock. Government aid is palliative. That contribution is not enough even to provide for the number of cattle in area for one month. We hope that the rains return in May, to start to recover from the damages that we already have,” Murillo said.

Despite the state of emergency declared by the executive branch, creating wells and developing projects are still on hold, while the next three months threaten livestock herds. Murillo thinks the most viable solution envisioned for the future is the Rio Piedras project that aims to take water from Lake Arenal and provide water to the inland cantons of Guanacaste. However, this initiative will not come true until 2021.

“We recommend that all those ranchers who can’t provide for their animals on their farms keep the ones they can manage in order to avoid partial or total loss. There are formal marketing channels such as auctions and they should be well informed of the prices,” added Murillo.

Prices of Meat

According to CORFOGA data, despite the crisis, cattle prices have remained stable. Sales in the auctions have decreased due to the drop in production, but the prices have not suffered significant variation between January of 2014 and January of 2016.

In 2014, the average price per kilogram was ¢845 ($1.60) for a female and ¢990 ($1.90) for males. In 2015, females cost ¢925 ($1.75) per kilo and males ¢1080 ($2.05), whereas in January and February of 2016, the going price for females is ¢1,060 ($2) and ¢1,325 ($2.50) for males.

The price of beef for daily consumption in the local market ranges from ¢4000 to ¢7000 ($7.50 to $13.30) per kilo, and the value tends to be stable. However, the decline in production could result in medium-term price increases in the market.