NEWS

State to shell out for extensive farm losses

The recent bad weather has deprived Greece of the luxury of a mild climate and caused yet more problems for the agricultural sector. But the government believes it will calm down a deteriorating situation, at least for a while, when it starts paying out state aid to cotton farmers tomorrow. Following the latest destruction wreaked on farming regions by heavy rainfall over the past few days, Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys said yesterday, «2002 will go down in history as the year of the greatest damage to the Greek agricultural sector.» He added that the National Agricultural Insurance Organization has already started assessing the extent of recent damage. But in many areas, conditions are so bad that it is impossible to assess – especially in the prefectures of Pieria, Imathia, Larissa, Serres and on the island of Chios. An expanse of 5,000 hectares between Litohoro and Dion in Pieria is swamped in mud. Meanwhile, in Kavala, an estimated 2,500 hectares of cultivated farmland have been flooded in the plains of the Nestos River and Philippi. Deputy Agriculture Minister Evangelos Argyris will today visit the affected areas of the northern prefecture of Pieria and meet with local government representatives and local farmers. Most of the recent damage has been to warehouses, farming equipment and goods in storage – rather than to crops. Deputy Economy Minister Giorgos Floridis signed a joint ministerial decision, according to which farmers will be be paid a total of 90 million euros in EU-approved funds. A computer disk with the names of all the beneficiaries has been sent to the Agricultural Bank, Drys said, adding that cotton farmers would receive outstanding payments in state aid for last year’s harvest – at a rate of 0.074 euros (25.2 drachmas) per kilo. As regards this year’s harvest, Drys said that the ginning period will end on September 31, adding that 859,450 tons of cotton have been turned in to ginning houses until now – 78 percent of the anticipated volume of production. However, the average yield of 305 kilos of cotton per 1,000 square meters, determined by the Agriculture Ministry, does not account for quantities of «legally» produced cotton from subsidies.