State, EU aid for farmers

The government said yesterday it would compensate farmers for up to 75 percent of the damage suffered to their crops and livestock during the unprecedented winter blizzard over the weekend, with half of the compensation to be paid with immediate effect. It also plans to ask the European Commission for additional aid. Heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures last week are believed to have destroyed a large part of crops around the country, with first estimates putting the damage at more than 45 million euros. The hardest-hit areas are Evia, Boeotia, Thessaly, Arta, Fthiotida, Imathia and Crete. The Greek Agricultural Insurance Organization (ELGA), the disaster compensation fund for farmers, said on Tuesday that preliminary figures showed that it would need to reimburse more than 45 million euros (15.4 billion drachmas) to affected farmers for crop and livestock losses. Its budget for this year is 30 billion drachmas. Exact loss figures, however, will not be known for some months due to the fact that some of the affected fruit trees will only start producing in the summer and autumn. Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said that ELGA officials had already started appraising the damage around the country. «ELGA will defray 50 percent of the assessed damage to farmers with immediate effect, allowing them to continue functioning in other agricultural work,» he told a press conference yesterday. He said the state plans to assist farmers restock their crops and livestock as well as rebuild their farms and warehouses. Farmers with agricultural loans due to expire in the first half of the year will be allowed to slide on the payment until they have been compensated by ELGA. The compensation fund expects to have reimbursed all affected farmers by May. Agricultural Minister Giorgos Drys said he plans to ask the European Union for additional funding for farmers at the upcoming meeting of EU agricultural ministers on January 20-21.

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