VILNIUS-RIGA - Dry weather continues to plague Baltic farmers, with Lithuania declaring a state of emergency and Latvia warning of extensive damage to cattle.
On Aug. 4, the Lithuanian government declared a state of emergency in the agricultural sector due to a severe drought. The measure will provide farmers hit by the drought with access to state, and possibly EU, aid.
However, to procure the latter, national authorities must prove that farmers have suffered substantial losses due to the lack of precipitation.
According to data from the Lithuanian Hydro-meteorological Service, disaster drought conditions have been registered by 10 out of the country's 20 hydro-meteorological stations.
Both hydro-meteorological and economic criteria for what constitutes a drought have been reached in Lithuania.
The latest estimates indicate that a wave of extreme cold this winter and the severe drought in the spring and summer have caused 623.7 million litas (181 million euros) in damages to the country's agricultural sector. The government has said that some 200 million litas would be allocated from various sources to compensate farmers.
Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said that it was vital that the agricultural sector had a system of insurance against such natural disasters.
In Latvia, Agriculture Minister Martins Roze said a continued dry spell has damaged cattle and created a particularly critical situation in that sector. He said that insufficient and sub-quality feed, as well as reduced milk yields, pose a serious problem at the moment.
"Milk yields have reduced because of unusual weather conditions, and this is likely to affect performance of milk quotas," the minister said.
An agriculture council member, Dzidra Kreismane, told the press that some Latvian farms have already started liquidating their cattle since they didn't have enough feed to last through the winter.
Farmers whose harvests have been seriously hurt by the summer weather can submit damage estimates until Aug. 23, the Agriculture Ministry said.