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News 08 Aug 12

Romania Faces Severe Drought

High summer temperatures in Romania are hurting the economy, which is causing fear that crops will be adversely affected.

Marian Chiriac

Romania’s biggest energy producer, Hidroelectrica, announced on Tuesday that it would reduce its power output by more than one quarter because of the unusually low levels of water.

“Due to the dramatic decrease of water flow in the Danube and other interior rivers, we have to cut production to 700 Gwh, which is a historic low,” the company said in a press release.  Normally, Hidroelectrica produces 1100 Gwh in August, representing around one third of Romania’s electricity output.

Experts say that dry and hot water could result in a rise in energy prices. Meanwhile, the extended drought could also damage next year's harvest, which will drive up food prices.

“Local farmers are facing a difficult situation, that is why the government must declare a state of emergency, which would also require stopping all exports,” says Laurentiu Baciu, president of the Agricultural Producers’ League, LAPAR.

He added that over 80 percent of corn production could be compromised and sunflower production is 50 percent lower. Wheat production has also been reduced to only half of the last year’s harvest, while prices have doubled, Baciu added.

Agriculture Minister Daniel Constantin said the situation is difficult but not dramatic.

“Expectation for this year’s harvest is below that reported in 2011, but it is not a situation which should alarm in the sense that we wouldn’t have the necessary food for internal consumption,” Constantin said.

The government has already announced several measures to ease the effects of the drought, allocating €25 million to different projects to offset damage to the crops. Furthermore, the price that farmers have to pay for irrigation water will be cut by 20 per cent.

Agriculture still plays a significant role in the Romanian economy, which is why droughts matter. The country has an agricultural surface of 14.7 million hectares of which 9.3 million hectares are arable.

Almost half of Romania's 21 million people still live in rural areas, but agriculture has long lacked investment and irrigation networks.  Other problems include fragmentation of holdings, property-related lawsuits and obsolete technology.

Most of the country's 2.8 million private farmers own less than five hectares.

While farmers pray for rain, there is no sign of it coming. Temperatures in Bucharest and the rest of southern Romania reached a record 42 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.

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