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Summer drought spells disaster for many

Farmers see incomes plummet with Danish pig producers hit particularly hard.

In August, the European Commission announced a series of measures to help Europe’s beleaguered farmers who are grappling the effects of this summer’s drought. The measures include initiatives to increase the availability of feed for livestock, which is one of the main challenges that farmers are currently facing. Other measures include early payments and relaxed harvesting rules. This is the third consecutive year with extreme weather conditions and many farmers across Europe are once again facing an uncertain financial future.

In an opinion piece in the EU observer, Nicolaj Christoffersen from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, and Viktoria Ostlund from the Federation of Swedish Farmers Meat welcome the different initiatives by the Commission, but urge the Commission to continue to assess different measures to alleviate the situation for farmers in the affected countries, particularly northern Europe.

“This is not the last major regional crises for European farmers,” they write. “The CAP must encompass mechanisms to deal with these situations systematically, rather than try to get by through ad hoc decisions every time……EU commissioner Phil Hogan, responsible for agricultural issues, has already reacted and signalled a continued willingness to find solutions. This is much appreciated. We hope that further action will enable farmers to take the necessary farming decisions without being restricted by EU rules, which are based on farming in an average year. This year has proven to be everything but an "average year". Instead, it has been an exceptional year. That calls for exceptional decisions.”

At the end of September, the Danish government announced a support package for agriculture of DKK 380 million (approx. GBP 45 million), with DKK 214 million (approx. GBP 25 million) going directly to farmers. However, Martin Merrild, the Chairman of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, describes the amount as negligible compared to the DKK 6.4 -7.4 billion (approx. GBP 754 – 870 million) losses incurred by Danish farmers as a result of the summer drought. Some 500 farmers in Denmark are reported to be in severe financial difficulties with Danish pork producers bearing the brunt.

Danish pork prices were much lower than normal during the summer; in fact, they have not been as low since 2003. In addition, the drought has hit feed production and forced farmers to buy more expensive feed from third party suppliers.

Reuters recently reported that Danish farm bankruptcies in 2018 have almost reached the level for all of last year.