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Brazilian floods lead to heavy losses for small citrus growers

As the full extent of the damage from the recent heavy rain and flooding in the South of Brazil is being totalled, early estimates show over $1 billion in damages suffered by rural citrus growers in the affected Rio Grande do Sul province. Sadly, it has also come to light that some smaller citrus growers and their workers have died due to mudslides.

"It is estimated that losses will reach 70% for the varieties of Caí and Ponkan mandarins," said Ing. Paulo Lipp, from the Citriculture Sector Chamber of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Sustainable Production and Irrigation (Seapi).

Relief operations in Rio Grande do Sul - Photo Credit: Brazil Ministry of Defense

Lipp says the preliminary surveys shows severe damage to thousands of small farms in the municipality of Montenegro and across the most affected province of Rio Grande do Sul. "A preliminary survey identified 7,854 properties affected by floods across the state of Rio Grande do Sul in 58 municipalities, most of them classified as small producers. In the citrus region, around a thousand citrus growers were affected, seeing major losses either due to flooding or the fall of fruits, mainly tangerines, that were ready to harvest due to three consecutive weeks of rain. Furthermore, in the Serra region, where viticulture is concentrated, hundreds of properties were hit by landslides."

He says the farmers and agricultural workers are also displaced due to the floods. "Some rural producers had to leave their properties due to landslides in the mountainous region where the production of grapes, juices and wines is concentrated. Large losses of citrus fruits were recorded due to floods in the plots in Vale do Caí and also in other regions of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Excessive floods and floods between April 28 and May 12 occurred at a time when 80% of the fruits were ready to be harvested. Hundreds of hectares of plantations saw fruit falling to the ground, leading to a total loss of fruit as well as the loss of tractors and equipment that were dragged across the Cai River," said Lipp.

He says the immediate future for these small scale citrus producers is uncertain, as it will be challenging for them to recover. Many of them are still waiting for their areas to be declared as safe after the landslides before returning to their lands. "For many it will be hard work trying to rebuild vineyards and orchards. Some are sheltering in neighbours' houses and say they only return after reports from geologists to ensure that no new landslides will occur."

All levels of the Brazilian government, as well as banks, have offered assistance and support. "Governments at both the municipal, state and federal levels are offering assistance and donations of food and supplies are coming from all parts of Brazil. They are also offering financing renegotiation," concludes Lipp.

For more information:
Ing. Paulo Lipp
Citriculture Sector Chamber, Agricultural Secretary of Rio Grande do Sul
Email: [email protected]