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Drought recognised as natural disaster for farmers
Farmers in about two-thirds of Wallonia have become eligible for compensation after suffering losses due to this summer's drought.
The Royal Meteorological Institute has confirmed that 166 Walloon municipalities suffered "exceptional" dry conditions between May and the beginning of August - mainly in the provinces of Hainaut, Namur and Brabant Wallon.
By officially recognising the drought as a natural disaster, the procedure begins for farmers in the affected communes to lodge a claim for financial support.
To benefit from compensation, farmers must be able to prove that they have lost at least 30% of their crop due to the weather. However they are likely to have to wait until early next year for the funds to be paid out.
"In the meantime, we had to continue paying for our fertiliser, our bills, our energy - and that's where we're going to get stuck," one farmer told RTL.
Walloon agriculture minister René Collin is also asking Europe to allow aid to the sector to be paid earlier than planned. A decision by the European Commission is however not expected before the end of August.
Potato crop yields are among the worst-hit by the drought - meaning a potential supply shortage for the making of traditional Belgian frites.
However, one area that could do well from the dry spell is Belgian wine. "We'll probably harvest 15 days earlier than usual, we'll start in early September," one winemaker in Liège told RTBF.
If all goes as planned, the cooperative Vin de Liège hopes to produce 60,000 bottles of wine this year - 20,000 more than last year.
Photo: James Geikere/Belga