Romanian Farmers Pray For Rain
Published 17th November 2010 - 0 comments - 1084 views -
By ANCA PADURARU
Associated Press Writer
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) – With crops across Romania scorched by a heat wave and no rain in the forecast, farmers are turning their eyes to the skies to pray for relief.
"Drought, drought, and drought again – people are either in the fields, watching them in despair, or at church to pray for rain," said Dumitru Popescu, 60, a retired mechanic who worked for an 8,000 hectare (19,760 acre) farm in the village of Balaciu in eastern Romania.
This is the worst drought the village about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Bucharest has seen in 50 years, Popescu said.
At the Balaciu farm, the wheat has dried up, along with 40 percent of the crops across the country, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
More than half of Romania's 41 counties have faced unusually high temperatures over the past month, and the worst affected are in the south and east – the country's traditional breadbasket – where wheat, rye, sunflowers and beets are grown.
On Thursday, Romania's Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist prayed for an end to the drought.
But rain is not expected for at least another week, meteorologists say, while constant sunshine and temperatures above 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit) have baked the soil.
"One good rain would save the day, as would one good irrigation, but farmers do not have the money" to pay for irrigation, said Petru Gheorghe, an engineer with the company in charge of the national irrigation system. In other places, the irrigation system has collapsed.
Watering one hectare (2.47 acres) of land thoroughly would cost 400,000 lei (dlrs 19) – money most farmers simply don't have.
Instead, many have their barns stuffed with crops from last year's harvest. Market prices were so low, farmers opted to store their crops rather than sell them.
To help ease the situation, the national water company Apele Romane said it will provide irrigation, and accept crops as payment after the harvest.
During communist times, some 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) were irrigated. Since then, much of the irrigation system has been dismantled, and a little more than half of the total now can be irrigated.
But so far, only one-tenth of the land with access to the irrigation system has contracted for water.
Although it may seem self-destructive, many farmers have no incentive to work their land because the government still caps the price they can charge for their crops.
Wheat now sells for 2.5 million lei (dlrs 120) per ton. Although the price is expected to climb, no one can predict by how much.
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