Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hoping for a good bean harvest

On August 15, El Mundo reported that El Salvador's ministry of agriculture is forecasting a record red bean harvest.  A record harvest would allow the price of beans to drop from their high of this year between $1.20 to $1.30 per pound, back to 50 cents per pound.     The minister of Agriculture even suggests that the harvest might exceed El Salvador's domestic consumption, so that no beans would need to be imported during 2012.

As a result of poor harvests in 2011 and earlier years, El Salvador has been a net importer of beans and corn.   This situation of recent decades contrasts with the 1980's and earlier when El Salvador was self-sufficient with respect to its production and consumption of these basic foodstuffs of the Salvadoran diet.   Currently El Salvador has to go out onto world markets to buy beans and corn.   Most beans are purchased from Nicaragua, but earlier this year El Salvador looked around the world to China for a source of beans.

Commenting on the China bean imports, Colleen at the Locavore del Mundo blog, found little to praise about "short-term imported cheap food":

Personally, I would like to see the Ministry of Agriculture (MAg) invest in long-term solutions such as providing education and resources to implement sustainable farming practices and seed saving techniques. Methods to reduce erosion, to capture rainwater for irrigation, to restore soil health, to fight insects or plant diseases without chemicals, to bring the product from harvest to market with minimal loss...these are topics that would truly benefit the citizens. But instead, what is the biggest complaint? That the cheap Chinese beans are only being sold in 5-pound bags, which is difficult for many people to afford (yes, the $3.75 is a stretch for many campesinos). Which is why it's obvious that only solutions that are rooted in longevity will have any lasting impact.
Improved agricultural techniques, making crops less susceptible to the vagaries of weather, would be a start on the path of El Salvador regaining some security over its domestic food needs. The El Mundo article mentioned above does state that the agriculture ministry intends to spend some $30 million on irrigation and drainage in order to increase the number of acres of agricultural land dedicated to basic staples like corn and beans.

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