Dry spell

Published: Saturday 31 May 1997

of rain, freezing temperatures and cold winds have brought fears of drought across Europe. Many farmers across Europe are now facing a 'catastrophe' according to Copa, the association of European farmers' unions. The worst hit countries are Italy, Spain and Portugal, while parts of France, Belgium and the uk are also affected. Dry weather has already reduced grain crops in Portugal by 40 per cent. Apple growers in Belgium have lost most or all of their crops while vineyards in the Rhone Valley in France have suffered from "dry soil and north winds". Reacting to these reports, the European Commission (ec) last week decided to levy ten per cent tax on grain exports. "The situation is dangerous, but not yet desperate," said Copa.

Farmers in most European countries are turning to national governments or the ec for aid.Groundwater levels are low in most countries, which could force authorities to impose restrictions on farmers drawing water from rivers and boreholes. Most affected crops are likely to be potatoes, sugar beet, grain and salad crops which require lots of water.

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