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Wednesday, 01/24/2007 9:51:07 AM

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 9:51:07 AM

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WHEAT: Warm, dry spell threatens Greek crops
Temperatures 3 degrees above normal


The sun shines as wildflowers bloom near sparse snow in Karyes on Mount Olympus, central Greece, yesterday. This is set to be the driest January since 1989 and temperatures are some 3 degrees C above the seasonal average.

The temperatures in Athens and Thessaloniki are some three degrees above the average for this time of year and the unseasonably warm weather that Greece has experienced in recent weeks could have devastating consequences on the country’s agricultural sector, officials told Kathimerini yesterday.

The lack of rain this winter as well as the increased temperatures have upset crops and unless there is a gradual shift to more wintry weather, they will suffer.

“If it does not rain across Greece, the situation will be very serious,” Agricultural Development Ministry official Giorgos Georgakopoulos told Kathimerini.

“The current weather conditions are definitely damaging crops. The wheat is withering because of the drought. The blossoming of trees, particularly citrus trees, will bring production forward.”

The head of the assessment department of the Hellenic Agricultural Insurance Organization (ELGA), Anastassis Anastassakos, believes the current situation is “very bad” for Greek farming. He said that some livestock breeders are having difficulty finding grass on which to graze their animals and farmers in southern Greece cannot plant spring vegetables because the land is too dry.

European Union agricultural ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Monday and Greece’s minister, Evangelos Bassiakos, is expected to ask for measures to be taken to protect the environment and the water table while also requesting support for crops and farmers affected by drought.

The head of forecasting at the National Meteorological Service (EMY), Dimitris Ziakopoulos, told Kathimerini that this has not been the hottest January on record but the average temperature in Athens this month has been 15.5 Celsius (60 Fahrenheit) whereas it is usually 12.6C (55F). The average in Thessaloniki has been 12.7C (55F) this month compared to the normal January average of 9.3C (49F).

Ziakopoulos said this month is likely to be the driest January for 18 years. So far a total of only 1.3 millimeters of rainfall has been recorded in Athens. Rainfall in January usually reaches 49 millimeters.

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