Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Drought in Europe Spreads

In England, the counties of Surrey and Sussex have suffered through their driest winter and spring since 1975-76, and the third driest in nearly 100 years. The South-east as a whole, including London, is not far behind; south-east England is at the fringe of the drought that is affecting parts of western Europe, in particular France and Spain.

In Portugal, the country's worst drought in 60 years is expected to decrease farm income by 35 percent this year. Among forecast drops as fields wither, winter hard wheat production is expected to fall 90 percent this year from 2004 and soft wheat output is seen off more than 60 percent. Ninety-seven percent of Portugal was in severe or extreme drought at the end of June, the worst dry spell since at least 1945. Spain and France also are suffering from intense drought.

In France, a plague of hundreds of thousands of locusts which are devouring everything from crops to flowers in village window boxes, has worstened the effects of the drought. Aveyron Chamber of Agriculture says the locusts have hatched as a result of a drought that effectively began in 2003 and has never lost its grip due to insufficient winter rainfall.

The European Commission estimated on Friday that EU cereals production would fall by at least 28 million tonnes, or about 10 percent, because of the lack of rain. Portugal's Agriculture Minister Jaime Silva, believes that climate change is making drought more frequent and more severe; "We have more and more periodic droughts. It used to be it was once every 20 years, now it's less than 10 years and when it happens it's not just one year."

Climate change is another negative factor in the search for sustainability; as population and demand continues to grow, increasingly severe droughts lower the ability to meet the demand for food. If there are solutions they must come quickly.


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