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German farmers step up $1 billion aid call after drought damage


By Michael Hogan
HAMBURG (Reuters) - German farmers intensified calls for around 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion) in special aid on Tuesday after crop damage from a drought and heatwave, but Berlin said it would wait for an August harvest report before making a decision.
The president of German farming association DBV, Joachim Rukwied, said drought had caused 1.4 million euros ($1.6 million) of damage to grains crops alone this year.
Poor growing weather, including a heatwave and lack of rain, has damaged crops in France, Germany and the Baltic Sea countries, while a shortage of animal feed is also looming after damage to maize (corn) crops and grass.
"Expensive animal feed will have to be purchased," Rukwied told German TV channel ZDF.
However, German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said on German television that a clearer view of the national picture was needed and the government would await her ministry's own harvest report in late August.
"Then we will have a real overview of the situation in Germany," she said, adding that regional state governments could provide local aid if needed.
Indications were that German federal and state governments were in disagreement about whether aid should be paid.
German state and federal agricultural agencies meet on Tuesday to discuss the drought and Kloeckner is due to report to the cabinet on Wednesday.
Kloeckner said later on German radio NDR that harvests were varied among states.
"Farmers themselves do not know how their harvest will turn out," she said.
Till Backhaus, the farm minister in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, called on the government to declare a state of emergency for farmers, saying a decision in late August would not be fast enough.
The farm minister in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, Claudia Dalbert, told Reuters she expected a state of emergency to be declared.
The meeting of federal and state officials on Wednesday had concluded "that the current assessment is that the harvest losses will be worse than in 2003," Dalbert said.
A state of emergency had also been declared in that year because of drought.
French consultancy Strategie Grains expects the German soft wheat crop to fall to 20.7 million tonnes, from 22.8 million estimated in early July, Reuters reported on July 25. Last year some 24 million tonnes were harvested in Germany.
German grain traders, however, increasingly expect a wheat harvest of under 20 million tonnes.
($1 = 0.8535 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Hogan and Hans-Edzard Busemann, additonal reporting by Gernot Heller, editing by Alexander Smith, Richard Balmforth)

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First Published: Jul 31 2018 | 10:52 PM IST

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