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European drought could cause global food shortages


Sydney Borton
Digital Reporter

Friday, July 27, 2018, 1:32 PM - Europe is experiencing what farmers are calling the “worst drought in recent memory” – which could create food shortages and financial troubles for Europeans.

Since May 2018, Europe has been experiencing a dry spell and above-average seasonal temperatures, including numerous heat waves. The Lithuanian government has declared a state of emergency for the drought and Latvia acknowledged it as a natural disaster of national scale. 

Norway, Ireland, and Denmark have imposed water restrictions. Electricity prices are expected to rise in Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands due to a high dependency on hydropower.

The European Drought Observatory (EDO) created a map visualizing which countries and regions are experiencing the worst of the drought. 

Some areas’ harvests are doing fine despite the conditions, while others are noticeably suffering. Thanks to irrigation, Belgium and the Netherlands have had minor losses while western Belarus, western Poland, and Czech Republic are experiencing a deficit in moisture levels and an increase in vegetation stress.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR FARMERS?

Many European farmers are facing extreme financial losses and possibly even bankruptcy. Lennart Nilsson, a cattle farmer in Sweden and co-chair of the Swedish Farmers Association (SFA), told The Guardian that his personal financial losses would be around 500,000 Swedish krona ($73,800+ Canadian). 

“Most of south-west Sweden hasn’t had rain since the first days of May,” said Nilsson. “This is serious.”

Left: Britain in May. Right: Britain in July. Photo: SWNS

Most farmers are now operating at a loss, earning less than they are spending to upkeep their crops and support their families. The SFA believes that if rain doesn’t come soon, many of their members will be facing bankruptcy and could lose up to eight billion krona ($1 billion+ Canadian).

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CANADA?

We could be seeing a French fry shortage.

The German Association of the Fruit, Vegetable, and Potato Processing (BOGK) released a statement on the potato harvest, saying “Due to the continuing drought and heat, the potato harvest in Germany and Europe this year will be considerably lower or worse than in the previous year both in quantity and quality.”

Agricultural experts with BOGK are reporting a 25 percent reduction in revenues. Potatoes needed to make the French fries we know and love need to be rather large in size, and these dry conditions aren’t producing large enough vegetables. 

“Due to increasing dryness and heat, the individual potato plants are increasingly under stress and stop the growth of the plant,” said BOGK. 

Shortages of other European exports including cereals, hay, wheat, and fruit, could also be facing shortages if conditions don’t improve soon. According to the EDO’s analytical report on the drought, the Baltic and English Channel areas are experiencing yield reductions in cereals, fruits in continental Europe, grains in Poland, and pasturelands are struggling in Scotland.

The European Union is the world’s largest partner in international trade of agricultural products. The three export categories are animal products (meat, fish, crustaceans, dairy, honey, etc.), vegetable products (trees, plants, vegetables, fruit, coffee, cereals, etc.), and foodstuffs (sugar, beverages, spirits, tobacco, etc.) – foodstuffs being the largest export category. 

VIDEO: UNPRECEDENTED WILDFIRES BURN IN SWEDEN



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