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Belgian farmers struggle as drought and rising costs hit

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By Gregoire Lory
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A farmer and his dog sit on a tractor and ploughs the land, in Passendale, western Belgium.
A farmer and his dog sit on a tractor and ploughs the land, in Passendale, western Belgium.   -   Copyright  Yves Logghe/AP

Belgian farmers and breeders are being hit by both rising costs and drought, as the impact of the war in Ukraine and drier weather are felt. 

Spring 2022 has already been a very dry season for producers in Belgium. Add to that the inflationary pressures being felt worldwide and the mixture is a volatile one.

According to Jean-Luc Dewez a farmer near the city of Namur, the lack of rainfall and the north-east wind that has been blowing continuously in recent weeks is starting to cost him a lot.

"If it doesn't rain by the beginning of June, it could be a problem. Really! In terms of all the crops and all the production," Dewez told Euronews.

On dry soil, fertiliser doesn't penetrate deeply. Without this and water, crop yields are likely to be lower, explains Laurent Gomand, owner of a neighbouring farm.

He says the drought is a double whammy because without fodder production, he and other farmers are likely to encounter difficulties in feeding their livestock.

"The first cuts of grass in the spring were really low. It's half of what we harvested last year," Gomand said. "So we're already using some of our reserves, which will be smaller when we need to feed the animals in the winter. 

"So, that means we're going to have to buy raw materials that are obviously very expensive now, because of the economic situation. The geopolitical context is such that everything we buy, everything we have to buy, is very expensive."

José Renard, secretary general of the Walloon Federation of Agriculture, told Euronews it's still too early to talk about a catastrophe, but the current situation with the war in Ukraine is putting additional costs on the sector.

"Fertilisers is extremely expensive and in times of drought, it's less effective," Renard said. "While we would like to have a period when this efficiency is increased, it's the opposite due to the drought. If we have to use the feed for the livestock tomorrow, it could also be extremely expensive."

Belgium is not the only country in Europe affected by the drought. France, for example, is expected to have the hottest May on record, pointing to a dry summer.