Crops devastated by drought in Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia
ZAGREB, Aug 30 (AFP) - A severe drought accompanied by temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) has devastated crops in Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia, government officials and farmers say.
Fifteen out of 20 counties in Croatia have been declared disaster areas due to the combined effects of the drought and wildfires that are still raging across the country. Some areas have been without rain for around 40 days.
In Bosnia and Hercegovina the agriculture ministry of the Muslim-Croat Federation has called on the government to declare a natural disaster due to the drought, Osman Saric, an advisor with he ministry told AFP.
Agricultural output was down by 70 percent in Republika Srpska (RS, the Bosnian Serb entity), Agriculture Minister Nenad Kesic told Nezavisne Novine newspaper this week.
In Slovenia, damage to crops is estimated at between 115 and 138 million dollars (127 million euros and 153 million euros) by some farmers' associations.
According to the Croatian agriculture ministry, which has not finalised its report yet, losses recorded so far amount to 315 million kunas (368,000 dollars, 408,000 euros), with agriculture production down by between 30 percent rising to almost complete destruction of crops.
In Vukovar county, in the agricultural part of eastern Croatia, where damage was estimated at 200 million kunas (230,000 dollars, 255 million euros). The drought has hit all the crops, orchards and vineyard across an area of 70,000 hectares (172,000 acres), Hina news agency reported.
Since April average rainfall in Vukovar has been only three to 10 litres per square meter, which is way below requirements for the normal growth of crops, so it is feared that products such as sugar beet and sunflower will not be good enough for processing.
Bosnia has been hit by the worst drought for 48 years, according to the meteorology institute. Rains in summer months average 230 litres per square meter, while this year only 90 litres have been recorded so far.
In the Muslim-Croat Federation harvests of corn, potatoes and hay are down by 30 to 40 percent. The government is expected to introduce lower tariffs for import of stock-cattle feed, meat, and meat products.
Post-war Bosnia imports meat as local farmers cannot supply the market due to the much reduced livestock.
The most serious consequences, shortages of meat and milk, will be felt in 2001, Saric said, but he added that the effects would be felt on the economy for five years.
Mesud Ribic, assistant to the federation's agriculture ministry, told the Vecernje Novine newspaper that the economy had already suffered damage estimated at 124 million dollars (137 million euros). He said that the indirect effects of the drought, such as a shortage of livestock, were not yet known.
In the RS, cattle feed has been hit hard because hay production was down by two thirds and corn production has plummeted by 80 percent. Vegetable production is down by up to 70 percent, and fruit production is only 15 to 20 percent of its normal level.
Farmers who suffered more than 25 percent damage have been excused from paying taxes.
Slovenia's government proposed Tuesday to parliament to set aside 20 million dollars (22 million euros) to offset the consequences of the drought.
Corn, potato and hops were mostly affected, and fruit producers in the southern part of the country said this was the worst drought since 1992.
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/30/2000 04:45:50
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