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Drought causes crop loss, damage in Spain

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-04-21 09:24

A boat rests on the dry bed of Sau reservoir, around 100 kilometers north of Barcelona, Spain on Tuesday amid parched conditions, especially in the nation's northeast, that mean residents could soon face tighter restrictions on water use. EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

After months of diminished rainfall, hot weather, farmers sound warning

Southern European farmers are experiencing an acute crop crisis due to months of drought.

Spain's largest farmers' association has warned that severe droughts have damaged more than 35,000 square kilometers of crops in the country.

The Coordinator of Farmers and Ranchers Organizations, or COAG, a government body that regulates and coordinates work in the Spanish agricultural sector, said in a new report that drought now affects 60 percent of the nation's countryside and is causing "irreversible losses", reported the Euronews website.

Ecologists in Spain have warned farmers may soon be unable to maintain production of wheat and barley. Crops, such as olives and nuts, have also been impacted, and farmers are having difficulty providing irrigation for corn, sunflowers, rice, and cotton.

Some regions, such as the prime growing regions of Andalusia, Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura, and Murcia, have "written off" wheat and barley crops for this year entirely, reported the Associated Press news agency.

Other countries in Europe, including Italy and France, face another year of drought as an abnormally dry winter has left riverbeds and lakes parched. In preparation for decreased crop yields and another hot, dry summer, the French and Italian governments are taking steps to limit water usage.

Last year, Spain faced its sixth-driest and hottest year since 1961, when records first started. The country is in an official drought after enduring three years of low rainfall and high temperatures, according to the country's weather agency.

"If rainfall does not improve within a few days, then rain-fed crop production, especially winter cereals, will be significantly reduced," Sergio Vicente-Serrano, a researcher at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology of Zaragoza, told Euronews.

Spain's agriculture ministry was due to meet with farming representatives this week to discuss the crisis.

Vicente-Serrano said: "If it continues like this, then, logically, the harvest will decrease, and therefore prices will rise. It should not be forgotten that drought is a phenomenon characteristic of the Mediterranean climate, that is not something new, connected with the process of global warming, and not a process that we have experienced only in the last few decades.

"But the problem is that in recent years we have also suffered from a lack of precipitation against the backdrop of a noticeable increase in temperature."

Much of southern Europe faces increasing drought conditions, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a body of the European Union that provides observations and analysis.

"Normally, particularly in southern European countries, we expect autumnal and winter recharge of rain," said Samantha Burgess, associate director of Copernicus. "That hasn't happened this year for many of those countries. So, we're about to go into that agricultural season, the growing season, with very low soil moisture.

"We also need to look for new technologies that use less water and so really look to recycle as much water or have a lower footprint on the water that is available," Burgess told Euronews.

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