German farmers fear another summer of drought

It is already exceptionally dry in some regions of Germany, with only one fifth of normal precipitation. [Edgar G Biehle | Shutterstock]

With low levels of rain, German farmers fear another summer of drought on top of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the German Ministry of Agriculture, the situation is under review, but no concrete measures are planned so far. EURACTIV Germany reports.

After weeks of drought, German farmers are increasingly worried about an impending drought, presenting an additional burden to pandemic.

Data from the German Weather Service shows only ten litres of water have fallen in some regions since mid-March instead of the usual 50 per square metre. An initial rainfall forecast also shows hardly any precipitation up to 4 June, except in the northeastern part of the country.

“If it continues to remain dry, it could again be a very difficult year for German agriculture,” Joachim Rukwied, President of the German Farmers’ Association told the media platform Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) on Wednesday (22 April). “A third year of drought in a row would hit many of our farms even harder than the last.”

In addition, there is the increased danger of pests in the fields and forests, which benefit from the mild winter and the persistent drought. The working group of the German Forest Owners Associations warns that the swarming bark beetle is a harbinger of an impending drought.

In a video message on Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) assured that her ministry is monitoring the situation very closely and will, if necessary, create stable conditions to help farmers.

But Klöckner did not mention any concrete measures so far, prompting criticism from Friedrich Ostendorff, agriculture spokesman for the Greens.

“Instead of presenting measures on how agriculture can adapt to climate change and future extreme weather events, she stumbles from one crisis to the next,” he wrote in a press statement. He called on the minister to present an agriculture strategy that points the way to climate-friendly agriculture.

DBV President Rukwied also spoke out in favour of an active climate policy, saying “it would be simply unwise to put climate protection on the back burner, even if the focus is now on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.”

Europe’s warmest quarter in a century

The first three months of this year were the warmest in 100 years. According to the European Copernicus service, last year was already the hottest on record in Europe, with the annual average temperature 1.24 degrees above the average for the years 1981 to 2010. 11 of the 12 warmest years in Europe were between 2000 and 2019.

Most recently, persistent dry weather in 2018 has led to a massive drought in Germany, with sales losses of up to 70% in some regions. At that time, the German government paid out drought aid amounting to €228 million.

Should another drought occur this summer, this would be an further burden in addition to the pandemic, which is already having a strong impact on sales markets, transport and supply chains in agriculture.

On Wednesday, the EU Commission announced further aid at the insistence of member states and farmers’ associations. Delegated implementation measures will be used to enable market interventions such as private storage of dairy and meat products. According to a document consulted by EURACTIV, €76 million is available for this purpose.

A first package was adopted in early April, allowing farmers to take out low-cost loans, increasing advances on direct payments and extending payment and reporting deadlines.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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