Sunday, June 5, 2011

Crisis meeting is called as UK drought leaves crops dying in the fields

John Vidal in the Guardian (UK): Ministers, farmers, supermarkets and utility companies will meet this week to assess a worsening dry spell in much of southern and eastern England that is threatening to become an agricultural and environmental disaster. Britain's second-driest spring in 100 years and the warmest since 1659 has left soil in parts of East Anglia and south-east England concrete-hard, with many rivers shrunk to trickles and crops withering at critical times in their growth.

Some eastern counties have had only 5mm of rain since the end of February, with most regions seeing no more than 60% of average rainfall in the past four months, usually one of the wettest times of the year.

"The next few weeks are critical," said National Farmers Union water adviser Jenny Bashford. "We had some rain last week but all it did was stop the situation worsening in some places. If we get a heatwave now, and the forecast is for above average temperatures and only sporadic showers in June, we are in a different situation. The north and north-west is largely OK but there are already significant problems in the south and east."

The meeting is at the request of the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, who asked the Environment Agency two weeks ago to report on how a drought might affect food production and prices, water and power supplies…

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