German farmers demand €1bn in aid amid continued drought

Germany may face crop shortfalls as farming body warns of ‘worst harvest of the century’

Dried sunflowers are pictured in a field in eastern Germany. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Dried sunflowers are pictured in a field in eastern Germany. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

 

After months of drought, temperatures reached 36 degrees in Germany on Tuesday, prompting farmers to demand €1 billion in emergency state aid to cover crop shortfalls.

Emergency harvesting has begun across the country, with farmers warning of looming shortfalls to livestock feed after disastrous growth of grains and grass.

Joachim Rukwied, head of Germany’s farming association, the DBV, estimated the drought had cost farmers €1.4 million and predicted that “expensive animal feed will have to be bought in”.

German grain harvests usually average out at between 46 and 48 million tonnes, but the heatwave and drought that began in May has forced the DBV to round down estimates for this year to 40 million tonnes, calling it the “worst harvest of the century so far”. In some regions of northern and western Germany, farmers are reporting harvests down 50 per cent. 

At a “drought summit” on Tuesday, farmers told the agriculture ministry that “corn is drying out on the stalk”.

But Germany’s agriculture minister Julia Klöckner has urged farmers to seek assistance first from the 16 federal states, saying she would wait to act until her officials presented a full report on the scale of the damage later this month.

“Then we will have a real overview of the situation in Germany,” she said, ahead of a cabinet meeting to discuss the matter on Wednesday. “It’s important that we have valid data, and not just individual estimates. Farmers themselves do not know how their harvests will turn out.”

Criticism

Environmental groups criticised farmers’ demands for compensation, calling for greater measures to combat global warming and incentives to diversify farming.

“This summit will be no more effective combatting the drought than a glass of water against a wildfire,” said Michael Schäfer, climate protection director of the World Wildlife Fund Germany.

It’s not all bad news down on the farm: apple growers say trees are laden with fruit, while strawberry yields are up 6 per cent. Germany’s winegrowers are also predicting a record year, with harvests starting three weeks early, yields set to rise and quality likely to be high — if the weather remains steady.

The hot weather has also been a boon for Germany’s brewers, with production up 0.6 per cent this year to 47.1 million hectolitres and prices up 4.1 per cent.

“Breweries have had to introduce extra shifts to be able to deliver enough product to shops and restaurants,” said the German Brewers’ Federation. Their greatest problem is not a shortage of hops, but of beer bottles.