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Europe Endures A Sizzling Summer That Debilitates The Agriculture Sector

An information screen warns commuters of hot weather on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP

I left the U.K. from a rain lashed Luton airport this  morning, Sunday July, 28 and headed off for Wroclaw in Poland for a brief business trip. On arrival I took a walk around the market square or Rynek in the early afternoon as the temperature eased passed 32°Celcius (89.6°Farenheit).

Now, I know the temperatures have soared higher here in recent days and North America has endured much hotter temperatures, however, in Europe, we are all beginning to feel a little hot under the collar.

So much so, that for the next days business meetings I and a colleague have been advised to ditch the suit and tie dress code and just wear a suit, with no tie or jacket.

This is proving to be the second heat wave of the summer to impact Europe and record high temperatures have been booked on a regular basis across the continent. At one-point last week, Paris surpassed its hottest temperature ever recorded and was for a while hotter than Riyadh, the capital of  the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia  at 43°Celcius (110°Farenheit).

Long-Range Meteorologist at AccuWeather, Max Vido suggested, “The past week of heat in France was record-shattering as many cities across the country experienced temperatures never reached in the meteorological observing history.”

This hot spell has seen five people die in France and there have been extensive travel disruptions in France and Britain. Railway tracks have been buckling leading to trains either running at extremely reduced speeds or being cancelled altogether. Over the weekend there were severe thunderstorms and lightening strikes that led to many European flights being cancelled; just as the school summer holiday season begun across the continent.

The heatwave does not only cause problems for travellers. On a more serious note, the protracted lack of rain the past two years has hit a European economy that has become increasingly dependent on access to vast quantities of water to provide drinks to an expanding population and  irrigate industrial-scale farming and industry.

Wheat ears stand in a field before harvesting but are affected by drought. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg


Amid these growing demands, Europe, like the rest of the world, has recorded rising temperatures, attributed to climate change, that have exacerbated conditions.

The French national weather service said the heat and low rainfall have contributed to a remarkable drying of the surface soils. The impact on the continent’s agriculture will prove costly as  ongoing heat waves reinforce drought conditions that began to be established last month and the longer the high temperatures and dry conditions persist, so the deep aquifers will remain in need of being replenished. In turn that can create tinder dry conditions for wildfires to break out. Northern Spain, Southern France and all of Italy and Greece are at an elevated risk of sudden, spontaneous blazes where rainfall in June and July this year has been booked at barely 60% of normal precipitation.

Agriculture Commissioner Phil  Hogan said the prolonged weather conditions are of concern to European farmers. So much so that the commission is relaxing greening regulations to give farmers more flexibility in the use of land that, in normal times, is not used for production purposes.

European farmers will be able to receive a higher percentage of their advances on direct payments and payments for rural development due to new measures announced by the European Commission is support farmers facing drought conditions in Europe

This will prove helpful as the usual case is that farmers who are struggling to feed their animals or already using hay stocks that were due to be kept for this fall and winter,

French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said: “This will represent 1 billion euros in additional cash advance.”

Across France, as of Thursday, July 25, 80% of the mainland local regions have imposed restrictions on water usage with many zones in a crisis-level situation that bans irrigation. This has angered the farming lobby as too many fields of wheat and corn crops as simply wilting in the heat.

The drought is having an impact as farmers are starting to scrap the wilted crops in favor of exotic plants that require less water and are more resistant to heat, such as sorghum, (used for cattle feed), as well as a pea plant commonly grown in water-constrained countries such as India and Ethiopia.

The heat and lack of rainfall is also impacting Russia, the world’s top wheat exporter where output is set to decline for the first time since 2013. That news plus the abandonment of the wheat crop in France and Germany is going to light a fire in wheat futures which had retreated by 10% in the past month on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The writing is on the wall as far as wheat prices ar going to develop as in terms of U.S. Cents/Bushel the futures market reads: September 2019,  496.05, December 2019, 504.25, March 2020, 515.25, and one year out from now sees June 2020 priced at 521.25.

This heatwave is having an affect far and wide and agricultural grain prices are looking hot.

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