Grain, fruit and vegetable harvests in Germany have been reduced by droughts in key areas this year, latest figures show. Farmers' woes have been further aggravated by falling prices and Russia's food ban.
Germany's farmers' association, the DBV, released new figures on the harvesting season on Tuesday, showing that a long spell of unusually hot weather in the first half of this year severely affected crop output.
"The severe drought seen in large parts of Germany since May has left its mark on the grain harvest," DBV said in its report, which showed that only 46.5 million tons of the crop staple were harvested so far this year - a shortfall of 11 percent from last year's record 52 million tons.
The heatwaves also battered other crops, such as rapeseed and vegetables, the DBV said, while apple growers were expecting a harvest of not more than 885,000 tons, down 21 percent from last year. The asparagus harvest was also reduced by the dry spell, coming in 5 percent lower, DBV added.
DBV President Joachim Rukewied told journalists in Berlin that regions in central Germany were hit hardest, suffering crop slumps of between 40 and 50 percent. Crop-growing regions in the North and the South suffered less due to more rainfall there.
Rukewied also said that farmers expected crops to be harvested later in the year to be negatively impacted, too, as the unusual summer heat had continued this month.
"The ongoing drought in August is also harming crops that are still growing such as corn and sugar beets, grazing land and forage crops. Here, irreparable damage has already been done," he said.
Falling prices and Russia food ban
In its report, the farmers' association further complained about falling prices for agricultural produce, and said the introduction of a minimum wage in Germany this year had been pushing up costs.
Despite significant crop failures in Germany, European market prices for milk, pork and wheat as well as for fruits and vegetables dropped significantly. The DBV calculated the total losses resulting from lower prices to be in the region of "more than 3 billion euros" ($3.3 billion) for German farmers.
This was partly due to better harvests elsewhere in Europe, the DBV said, but also caused by a Russian import embargo imposed at the beginning of this year against EU agricultural products. The ban is part of retaliatory measures taken by Moscow after Western countries imposed sanction on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.
DBV said the import ban had cost German farmers between 600 million and 700 million euros in lost revenues this year. Looking ahead, Rukewied said that he expected German farmers to cut investments in new crops in the second half of 2015 to 4 billion euros from 6 billion euros in the same period last year.
uhe/sgb (dpa, AFP)