Farm Ministers of the nine Common Market countries are holding an emergency meeting in Brussels tomorrow (Thursday, 9 September) to discuss the effects of this year's drought in some member countries, and particularly the prospects for food supplies.
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Background: Farm Ministers of the nine Common Market countries are holding an emergency meeting in Brussels tomorrow (Thursday, 9 September) to discuss the effects of this year's drought in some member countries, and particularly the prospects for food supplies.
SYNOPSIS: France and Britain have been worst hit. The fields of northern France, normally green dairy country, have been reduced to a barren, dusty wasteland. Water has to be brought out for the cows, for they can find no moisture in the grass; and farmers are digging deep into what should be next winter's fodder to feed them.
In Britain, the vegetable crops will be sharply reduced. Seed did not germinate in the hard ground, so the plants are sparse. Root vegetables are mostly small. This is going to mean increased prices in the shops. The potato crop is expected to be only about the same as last year -- when there were severe shortages -- in spite of increased planting.
Britain's countryside is showing the effects of a hot, dry summer after a mind, dry winter. The reservoirs are low, and water for industry is in danger. As a result, drastic restrictions have been imposed on householders. In one of the worst-hit areas, South Wales, they have main water for only seven hours a day.
West Germany has suffered much less than France and Britain. In most places there is still good grazing. Holland has hardly suffered at all.
The Ministers will face such problems as the large number of animals sent prematurely for slaughter causing low prices now and a shortage of meat to come. The Agricultural Commissioner, M. Pierre Lardinois, has said their main object will be to ensure food and animal fodder for the winter, at stable prices, and to see that national emergency measures are in line with Common Market policy.
M. Lardinois said the Community would be exporting less and importing more, to make sure of adequate supplies of basic foods. The cereal crop for the Community as a whole would probably be about five per cent down on last year's -- which itself was considered disappointing. He said he had been assured by the American Secretary for Agriculture, Mr. Earl Butz, that the United States would do nothing to hinder the export of U.S. food grains, particularly soya and maize.
Holiday-makers have been about the only class of people in Britain and France who have really enjoyed this summer. Even they have sometimes been threatened by the large-scale forest fires that have devastated huge areas of woodland in both countries. With the undergrowth tinder-dry, a carelessly-thrown cigarette or march, or the sun's rays on a piece of broken glass, have been enough to touch off a fire that might burn for days. Only months of exceptional rainfall can really restore the situation to normal.