The Flemish government has agreed to treat the summer drought, which lasted from 2 June to 6 August, as a natural disaster, opening the door for compensation claims from farmers in the region. The decision by agriculture minister Joke Schauvliege was based on data from the Royal Meteorological Institute, which described the rainfall during that period as “exceptionally scarce,” meaning a level which would only be expected once in a period of 20 years. The farmers’ union Boerenbond described the decision as “an important signal from the government”.
Municipal councils in Flanders have already received a total of 12,000 claims from farmers, and the government has established a list of those sectors which will be eligible to claim damages: vegetables, industrial crops, animal feed crops, arable crops, fruit, decorative plants and trees.
According to the Institute, all 308 municipalities in the region were affected. The month of June saw rainfall reduced to 22% of the amount considered normal for the season; in July that figure fell to only 13%.
Farmers will have three months from the publication of the decision in the government’s official journal to file a claim. Compensation is capped at €62,400 per claimant. “I have instructed my services to give priority to the management of these damages cases, so that payment can follow as quickly as possible,” Schauvliege said.
Boerenbond, meanwhile, welcomed the decision: “This is an acknowledgement that farming is an economic sector in which the conditions for production cannot be fully controlled,” said union president Sonja De Becker. “This recognition also makes a positive difference and will help the businesses affected to be compensated for some of the damage they have suffered.”