Region considers drought relief for farmers

06/09/2012

Some governments are providing assistance to farmers as excessive heat and a lack of rain has serious effects.

By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Bitola -- 06/09/12

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Destroyed crops have contributed to significant food price increases. [Klaudija Lutovska/SETimes]

Some regional governments are working to help farmers, after high temperatures in the region have contributed to a severe drought that caused more than a billion euros in damage to crops and will force food prices to increase by as much as 25 percent, experts said.

"Wholesale prices of animal feed, meat and milk prices will increase by as much as a third in 2013. Food and energy will have to be imported," Blagoj Ilievski, an economist in Bitola, told SETimes.

"In the past year, there were only 102 liters of rain, which fell within a 15-day period. Such numbers are characteristic of an arid, semi-desert climate," Sande Kostov, manager of the Erdzelija farm in Ovche Pole, the largest arable region in Macedonia, told SETimes.

Making things worse is the drastic fall of the river water levels, particularly in Serbia, where the grain yield has fallen by a third, and farmers are panicked over how to maintain the animal population level.

The Macedonian Agriculture Ministry told SETimes that the damage is greatest to crops not covered by the irrigation systems. A third of the country's wheat and barley has been damaged, as well as an unknown quantity of vegetables and fruits.

"The harvest will be a fifth less than anticipated," Macedonian Agriculture Minister Ljupco Dimovski told SETimes.

In Serbia, the agriculture ministry announced the soybean yield will be 50 percent lower than last year.

Goran Jesic, agriculture secretary for Vojvodina said that to mitigate the effects of the drought, the government has freed 15,000 farms from the obligation to pay for water for one year.

Croatia's Agricultural Chamber estimated the damages are 135 million euro and counting. The government proclaimed a state of emergency in some areas, but most affected is Slavonia.

"The damage to crops is between 30 and 80 percent, but in some regions 100 percent," Croatian Agriculture Minister Tihomir Jakovina said.

Damages in BiH are estimated at 510 million euros. In a country where a fifth of the population subsists on agriculture, grains, especially wheat, are completely destroyed, while milk production has decreased.

BiH farmers said this year is the worst in memory.

"We do not know how we will be compensated for the damage, repay the credits and begin the new planting season without money. The farmers are exhausted; three of the last four were drought years, and one was marked with floods," Vladimir Uroshac, president of the Republika Srpska Farmers Association, told SETimes.

FBiH Agriculture Minister Jerko Ivankovic confirmed that payments have begun.

"Part we paid in August, the other part will be paid in September," Ivankovic told SETimes.

"The farmers demand a plan for compensation and rehabilitation of the agricultural sector from natural catastrophes to prevent excessive imports and secure exports. Unfortunately, they do not expect it will happen," Avdo Muslimovic, president of the Federation of Agricultural Producers, said.

The drought in Romania has affected particularly the farmers in Transylvania, where small farms have failed to achieve production quotas necessary for the previously agreed on export quantities.

"As the drought continues, farmers use their own water reserves. While that may help in the short term, the solution is to have capital investments in, and efficient management of, the existing water resources," Andrija Sekulovski, president of the Macedonian Farmer Federation, told SETimes.

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Sekulovski said that ultimately governments will have to create a strategy for the agricultural sector to adjust to the climate changes and to educate farmers about it.

The effects of the drought have particularly affected animal husbandry.

"Given the animal food price increases, it is only a matter of time before we will be forced to begin slaughtering the basic herds of animals," Eftim Shaklev, president of Macedonia's Farmers Association, told SETimes.

Dimovski said the Macedonian government will intervene by making available a certain amount of animal feed from the state reserves.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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