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Italy May Have Lost Third of Corn Crop on Heat, Drought

Italy may have lost a third of its corn crop, the European Union’s third-biggest, and half of its soybean harvest because of drought and record heat, farm-industry organization Confagricoltura wrote.

Crop losses in the the region of Polesine in the Po River delta may be 150 million euros ($185 million), including 75 million euros of losses for corn alone, the Rome-based group wrote in an e-mailed statement today.

Italy was the EU’s third-biggest corn grower last year with production of 9.8 million metric tons, behind France and Romania, according to the International Grains Council. The country was the bloc’s third-largest importer of the grain last year, behind Spain and the Netherlands.

“Water shortages and record warmth are causing heat exhaustion for agriculture, with organic deterioration of corn plants, sunflowers, soybeans, beets, tomatoes, grapes, and the harvest destroyed,” Confagricoltura wrote.

The Po River, used to irrigate rice and corn crops, is 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) below its normal level at the city of Cremona in northern Italy, farm union Coldiretti wrote in a separate statement today. The water is sufficient to ensure only two weeks of irrigation, it said.

Crop damages are in excess of 500 million euros, according to the union. Cows are producing 10 percent to 20 percent less milk, even as farmers install fans and showers to cool the animals, according to Coldiretti.

Growth Decrease

Pigs are eating as much as 40 percent less than their usual ration of 3.5 kilograms of feed, resulting in a “substantial” decrease of growth, while laying hens are producing fewer eggs, Coldiretti said. Bees are unable to get pollen and nectar, putting honey production at risk, it said.

Most of the grain harvest in the Veneto region has been “compromised,” particularly in the provinces of Rovigo, Padua and Venice, according to Confagricoltura. Fruit, vegetables and vines have also been affected, the group wrote.

“The damages in the countryside caused by the African heat and drought are very serious,” Confagricoltura said. “We’ve requested that dams be opened urgently to guarantee sufficient water for emergency irrigation.”

Confagricoltura did not provide specific figures for crop losses.

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