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Think tank: Finnish rye crops may run out by end of year

Radical changes in year-on-year weather have diminished crops, and Finland may need to import rye to meet demand.

Ruispelto
Rye is a top crop in Finland. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Extreme changes in weather patterns have caused Finnish rye crops to decrease in recent years, potentially leading to domestic rye running out before the end of the year.

Food security expert Kaisa Karttunen from think tank e2 says the falling yields can be traced to 2017's heavy rainy periods followed by an abnormally hot and dry summer season this year.

"Last autumn only a modest harvest could be planted due to the rains, so now we have no buffer against this year's drought," Karttunen says.

Karttunen says that Finns will likely need to resort to imported rye from Poland and Germany in order to meet demand.

The overall crop situation is critical in places such as neighbouring Sweden as well, where farmers have slaughtered cattle to make forage grasses last over the winter.

The acreage for Finnish rye crops has diminished year on year, with almost half as much planted this year than in 2017.

Dry countries call on EU

With many European countries similarly affected by the heat and drought, the EU is feeling the pressure to revitalise the agricultural sector.

"Finland has received special permission to harvest hay for cattle from fallow fields, which helps a little," Karttunen says. "But such fields produce less robust crops as they have not been fertilised and may also feel the effects of drought."

Karttunen says that radical changes in climate must be taken seriously, warning of dramatic problems should another extreme weather phenomenon hit the same countries.

"We have to consider how to respond if a similar weather front were to extend to the whole of the European Union. What would we do then? Or what should we do if Southern Europe dries up completely, as projections show may occur?"

In response the EU is currently drawing up a reform to its agricultural policy, to be implemented in the next term after 2019.

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