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The Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI) has declared the recent heat waves in Flanders associated with extreme drought and unusually high temperatures “exceptional” that can open the door to compensation for farmers and producers from the disaster Fund.

According to the RMI’s study, the heatwaves affected all 308 Flemish communes, from the seaside town of De Panne to the heathland of the Kempen along the Dutch border. But while holidaymakers and others were soaking up the sun, farmers were preparing for a barren harvest. Potatoes were drying out in the ground, with tree fruits like apples and pears likely t be up to 30% smaller in volume.

Only the wine business, where the grapes undergo a concentration of sugars because of the sun, could see a positive balance on the horizon.

The decision by the RMI to classify the drought as exceptional fulfils one of the conditions for the situation to be considered a drought emergency. Flemish agriculture minister Joke Schauvliege has already started the procedure, which would lead to farmers being able to claim compensation from the disaster fund.

Before that can happen, however, the financial impact of the exceptional weather has to be evaluated. That means a total financial loss of €1.24 million, with a minimum of loss in each individual application of €5,580. The evaluation of damage is the responsibility of committees set up by each local authority.

“We expect the various reports from the drought committees in September, and then the Flemish government will be able to decide whether this counts as an agricultural disaster or not,” Schauvliege said. “When you see how striking the damage has been in every commune, I would expect that the second condition will certainly be fulfilled.”

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