France in ‘crisis situation’ as drought deepens

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France has curbed water consumption in 28 of its 96 administrative departments, the environment ministry said on Monday (16 May), as a rainless spell that has wilted grain crops looks set to continue.

"We are already in a situation of crisis. The situation is like what we would expect in July for groundwater levels, river flows and snow melting," Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusco-Morizet told a press conference.

The government had previously limited water consumption in 27 departments. Kosciusco-Morizet said that similar measures could be extended to three more, effectively affecting a third of the country.

One of the hottest and driest Aprils on record in France has parched farmland and cut two thirds of water reserves, stoking worries of a severe drought, and fuelling concern that harvests will suffer in what is Europe's bread basket.

Soils in the northern part of the country are experiencing the driest conditions in 50 years, the environment ministry said.

Total rainfall in April amounted to barely 29% of a 30-year average, average. Worse, according to weather expert Michele Blanchard, no substantial rainfall is expected in the next two weeks.

France has lost any prospect of a very good wheat crop this year as the drought has crippled plants, but the French farm office said last week it was too early to estimate numbered yield losses.

Last week, the French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire called on the European Union to ease some environmental requirements, as the French government prepared measures to help animal breeders, hurt by surging grain prices.

European agriculture are meeting in Brussels on 16-17 May.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

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