Drought-Hit Spain Seeks Early Farm Subsidies

16:49 El NACHO 0 Comments

Spain has become the latest country to apply for early European farming support subsidies this year as poor weather continues to threaten harvests across the region, a spokesman for the European Commission said Friday.

The European Union's executive arm has already approved in principal France's request for an advance on the Common Agricultural Policy, which would pay farmers around €4 billion ($5.72 billion) on Oct. 16, rather than in December.

But commission spokesman Roger Waite said Spain also had applied for early support for its producers, which could total up to €2.6 billion, while "Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg are expressing an interest, and Hungary too."

Europe is in the grip of the worst drought to hit the region for decades, with some parts receiving only around 40% of their average rainfall between February and April.

France's Ecology Minister has declared "a state of crisis" and imposed restrictions on the use of water in 28 out of 96 administrative regions due to the lack of rainfall.

In Spain, however, unseasonably heavy downfalls have stopped farmers planting this year's tomato crop, delaying the start of the season.

Analysts forecast output from the key producing region of Extremadura could fall 22% compared with 2010 to 1.38 million metric tons, while Andalusia could lose 35% of its crop compared with last year.

Mr. Waite said the commission is likely to decide on the early payments in June or July. The Oct. 16 deadline is imposed because it is the start of the new budget year, and advances couldn't be paid before then, he said.

But he added that under the EU's state aid regime, farmers could be paid up to €7,500 ($10,733) in extra support over a three-year period.