Some 2.5 million people are at risk of going hungry due to the severe drought plaguing more than half of Mexico's 32 states, a leading expert said Thursday.
"Fifty percent of the municipalities are affected and it's estimated that 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres) of crops suffered," said Emilio Romero, a scholar with the Economic Research Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The shortage of rain has already led to the loss of 3.2 million tonnes of maize, 600,000 tonnes of beans and 60,000 head of cattle, he noted.
Without measures to counteract the agricultural losses, "this population runs the risk of suffering hunger", Romero said, calling it "paradoxical" that the government delayed so long in tapping some of Mexico's $147 billion in international reserves to address the problems caused by the drought.
President Felipe Calderon announced this week the appropriation of 33.83 billion pesos ($2.5 billion) for drought relief.
One of the hardest-hit states is Chihuahua, which borders Texas. Several other northern states, such as Coahuila, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi, are also feeling the impact of the drought.
The head of Mexico's National Water Commission, Jose Luis Luege, said this week that while the drought is harming agriculture, supplies of drinking water are not in jeopardy.