Driest July in living memory puts European crops at risk – Reuters
Driest July in living memory jeopardizes European harvests
PARIS (AFP) – As much of Europe experiences a third heat wave since June, fears are growing that an extreme drought caused by climate change in the continent’s breadbasket countries will affect agricultural yields stable and worsen the cost of living crisis.
The European Commission on Wednesday urged EU member states to reuse treated urban wastewater for irrigation of parched farms on the continent, after France and parts of England experienced their driest July ever. never recorded.
In France, where an intense drought has hit farmers and led to widespread limits on the use of fresh water, there was just 9.7 millimeters (0.38 inches) of rain last month, a declared Meteo France.
That was 84% lower than the average levels seen for July between 1991 and 2022, making it the driest month since March 1961, the agency added.
Farmers across the country are reporting difficulty feeding livestock due to parched grasslands, while irrigation has been banned in large areas of the northwest and southeast due to freshwater shortages.
Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said July’s rainfall represented “only 12% of requirements”.
France is the fourth largest wheat exporter and one of the top five corn exporters in the world. Crop failures due to drought could increase pressure on grain supplies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent global shock waves.
“Our food system has been under pressure for some time, and with Ukraine’s supply problems, it has only gotten worse,” said Shouro Dasgupta, environmental economist at the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change. .
“These heat waves are added to droughts and will see crops wilt more quickly.”
Dasgupta said extreme heat caused by climate change is also contributing to food price inflation for consumers and more difficult conditions for producers.
“Droughts and heat waves are impacting people’s livelihoods. People will be less able to afford food,” he told AFP.
“And during heat waves, outdoor workers can only work fewer hours, which has cascading effects on supply.”
– “Food systems are not working” –
Britain’s Met Office said this week that much of southern and eastern England had its driest July on record.
Some water suppliers have already announced restrictions affecting millions of people, and fruit and vegetable growers have announced several crop losses such as beans and berries.
UK inflation hit its highest level in 40 years in June due to rising fuel and food prices.
Elizabeth Robinson, director of the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said soaring food prices – compounded by heat-induced losses in Europe and Britain Brittany – was a sign that “food systems aren’t working for people.”
“There are long-term, hard-to-have conversations, especially about food waste and the diversion of grain from food to people feeding animals,” she told AFP.
In Spain, already parched by a prolonged heat wave, temperatures will exceed 40°C in several regions this week.
The heat is worsening the water shortages that have plagued Spanish agriculture since last winter, with local restrictions on water use in the worst affected regions.
The government said this week that Spain’s tanks were only reaching 40.4% capacity.
Juan Carlos Hervas, from the COAG farmers’ union, told AFP that the Spanish olive harvest on non-irrigated land will be less than 20% of the average of the past five years.
Spain supplies nearly half of the world’s olive oil.
– “The worst drought of this century” –
Portugal, where temperatures once again crossed the 40°C mark this week, is experiencing “the worst drought of this century”, Environment Minister Jose Duarte Cordeiro warned last month.
Portugal and Poland have asked their citizens to reduce their water consumption to ease the pressure.
“Water authorities across Europe are unprepared for what scientists have been saying for three decades,” Dasgupta said. “A high incidence of heat waves will affect water supplies.”
The European Commission, in an updated assessment last month, found that almost half – 44% – of the EU and Britain were currently experiencing ‘warning’ levels of drought.
He warned that exceptionally low soil moisture levels meant that several countries, including France, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Italy, would see reduced crop yields in 2022.
“The unfavorable forecast for the coming months could jeopardize the water supply and will probably keep competition for this resource high,” he said.
A separate EU bulletin, also released last month, said European yields of soybeans, sunflowers and maize were already 9% below average.
Wednesday Virginijus Sinkevicius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans. urged EU countries to reuse more of its wastewater.
“We need to stop wasting water and use this resource more efficiently to adapt to climate change and ensure the security and sustainability of our agricultural supply.” he said.
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