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Wallonia’s drought-hit farmers lay out their demands

© Belga
© Belga

Representatives of Wallonia’s farmers met on Friday in Ciney to discuss the effects of the current drought and laid out their demands to José Renard, representative of the region’s minister of agriculture, René Collin. “It was already not easy to be rich but now it’s becoming totally impossible,” said Ciney farmer Etienne Ernoux. “This drought is causing considerable losses and expenses. I’ve never seen that before. If it doesn’t rain within a fortnight, we’re heading straight for disaster.”

High temperatures and a crippling water shortage have sent farm output into freefall across the board. The cost of trying to maintain a certain level of productivity is considerable. Moreover, the grass available in the region’s fields is not enough.

A request has been made for the Disaster Fund to intervene and help the farmers. “The IRM (Royal Meteorological Office) is compiling its report and should submit it in the next few days,” José Renard said in this regard. “We are doing everything to go as fast as possible and with the decisions taken at the European level, compensation should be quick.”

The farmers also want more mechanisms to be put in place. “Currently, we are only covered against hail; that needs to be the case with drought, too,” said Joseph Ponthier, president of the Walloon Federation of Agriculture (FWA). “It’s an indispensable complement for the Disaster Fund, which sometimes takes long to compensate us.”

As in other countries, the solution could be “parametric” insurance mechanisms that allow farmers to protect their lands according to multiple criteria, such as temperatures and rainfall, without any need for reports and with very fast compensation. A prairie insurance was also mentioned by the farmers.

Additionally, the FWA wishes to obtain exemptions from the timetabling imposed for the various crops. “We want our profession to be decided by agronomy and climate, not by predefined dates,” the FWA’s Ponthier said.

The farmers also asked the authorities to work on research to define which crops will be profitable in the future.

Maria Novak
The Brussels Times.