Milk imported from fellow South American countries is putting local Colombian economies at risk, said Colombia’s agricultural minister on Sunday.

According to Juan Camilo Restrepo Salazar, there has been an “overgrowth” of powdered milk imported from Mercosur countries — Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay and the currently suspended, Paraguay — but mainly from Argentina. Local media reported that over the past few months, imports increased an “exaggerated” 500%.

Mercosur, or the Southern Market, is an economic and political agreement between the aforementioned five South American countries.

Restrepo called the situation “very complicated” and to thwart the excessive imports from hurting domestic suppliers, the govenment has invoked a safeguard clause to restrict imports — a measure that could purportedly save the jobs of some 350 Colombian families.

The country’s agricultural minister, speaking at a forum last November, said the national government would have to “do more to protect national producers.”

“The oversized [amount] of imports worries the government [because] it can distort the local internal market of lactose products and in any given moment weigh down the price paid for crude milk [and in consequence] generate…negative impacts in employment and national structural productivity,” said Restrepo.

From Colombia Reports