Spain is asking for aid from the European Commission to help its farmers after the country was hit by a historic drought
The Spanish government requested emergency funds from the European Commission on Tuesday to help its farmers after they were hit by a historic drought that threatens a large part of their harvest.
Spain's Agriculture Minister Luis Planas wrote to the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, to plead for aid for his country's 890,000 farm workers. "We are facing an exceptional situation" that requires a "rapid response from the European Commission," Planas said at the end of the Council of Ministers.
The EU's "crisis reserve", which is meant to respond to possible disruptions in the bloc's agricultural markets, is endowed with €450 million.
Spain already received €64.5 million last year from the EU Common Agricultural Policy's crisis reserve to cope with the increased cost of raw materials linked to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But five consecutive years of drought in some regions have worsened an already difficult situation.
Around 27% of Spain is experiencing droughts classified as “emergency” or “alert”, according to the Ecological Transition ministry, and water reserves are at 50% of capacity nationally. The lack of water has forced many farmers to forego spring planting, especially cereals and oilseeds.
In Spain’s most important agricultural region, Andalusia, the situation is far worse. The Guadalquivir River Basin is at 24.8% of its capacity and farmers in the region have had their water allowance for irrigation cut by up to 90% in some cases.
And according to Coag, the main farmers' union, 60% of Spanish farmland is currently "suffocated" by the lack of rainfall, which has already caused "irreversible damage" to 3.5 million hectares of cereals.
In addition to the request to the EU, Madrid also announced a series of tax breaks for Spanish farmers, including a 25% reduction in income tax, which should benefit 800,000 people.
Spain's state weather agency has predicted temperatures will rise across the Mediterranean nation towards the end of the week.
Spain is the world’s biggest exporter of olive oil and an important producer of fruits and vegetables. The drought has already driven up Spanish olive oil prices to record levels.