Drought costs Walloon agriculture €200 million

Drought costs Walloon agriculture €200 million
Aerial drone picture shows the watering of a field in Bassenge, Monday 03 August 2020. Credit: Belga / Eric Lalmand

The Walloon Federation of Agriculture (FWA) has estimated that the current cost of drought on Walloon agriculture amounts to roughly 200 million. According to the President of the FWA, Marianne Streel, the group obtained the figure by multiplying the percentage of losses per crop by the total number of hectares.

Notably, grasslands suffered around €100 million in damages and €35 million was lost to failed corn harvests. Streel says that the first harvest was extremely dry, with poor yields. The second harvest during the summer had done slightly better, due to last-minute rains, but warned that “with the drought of this summer, there will be no third harvest.”

Against the backdrop of an increase in demand for cereals following the Covid-19 pandemic, an overly wet growing season last year, the war in Ukraine, and other external pressures, many farmers are now experiencing cash flow problems. The federation is now asking the animal breeders and farmers to show solidarity, notably requesting for farmers to sell goods to help support animal husbandry in Belgium.

The federation is also concerned that the industry has already depleted several core stocks which will be needed during the winter period. It will now ask the Walloon Region to set up a climate insurance system, to better respond to the problem.

Currently, Wallonia’s agricultural system relies upon the Agricultural Disaster Fund. As of yet, the Walloon Region has refused to activate these funds, despite the demands of the FWA.

The group states that the disaster fund is too slow to respond to the needs of farmers and does not sufficiently compensate for loss of income due to drought. Currently, the fund only provides support from growers who lose more than 30% of their crop.

The industry is instead proposing a new climate insurance fund, which will go much further than the existing system, helping farmers cover part of their insurance premium.

“In the event of damage, the cover would then correspond much more to the losses and the compensation by the insurers would intervene much more quickly,” the FWA president said.

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In the meantime, the FWA wants the government to nevertheless activate its Agricultural Disaster Fund, in order to provide some welcome relief to the worst affected farmers.

On 1 September, Wallonia’s Agriculture Minister, Willy Borsus, asked the Royal Meteorological Institute for its opinion on the exceptional nature of the drought. If the government agrees on the severity of the drought, funds from the disaster fund will be released.

In recent years, the Walloon Region has injected around €30 million into the Agricultural Disaster Fund, compared to an average of €5 million during times of sufficient rainfall. Recent growing seasons have either been too wet, or too dry for several years running. The FWA says that its new system would react faster and “cost the Walloon Region less than the current system.”

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