Sunday, July 22, 2007

AP: Millions of hectares of crops destroyed in prolonged drought in Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania: Farmers have threatened to protest unless they receive more government help in coping with a prolonged drought that has destroyed millions of hectares (acres) of crops.

The drought has cost Romania €1.5 billion (US$2 billion) in damages and has affected more than a third of the country's arable land, an agriculture official said Saturday.

Some 2.6 million hectares (6.42 million acres) of crops have been damaged by the arid spell, 36 percent of the country's total arable land, Agriculture Ministry official Gheorghe Albu said.

Crops most badly affected by the drought in Romania — a country of 22 million where nearly half the people live in the countryside — are wheat, barely, maize, sunflower and beets. Eastern and southern Romania have been hit the hardest, and in some areas, half of the sunflower and maize crops have been destroyed.

The government has declared a state of disaster in 34 of 42 counties and has offered up to 750 lei (€230; US$320) per affected hectare, or about 310 lei (€100; US$140) per acre, in compensation.

One farmer said that was too low.

"We don't want to take to the streets, but if we don't get the support ... to diminish the losses suffered due to the drought, we will hold protests," Adrian Radulescu, chairman of the League of Agricultural Producers, told the Rompres news agency.

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