Expert: Drought has minimal effect on Estonia's agricultural output

The droughts due to long heat waves are becoming more frequent in Estonia.
The droughts due to long heat waves are becoming more frequent in Estonia. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Margus Ameerikas, manager of Baltic Agro AS, said that the current drought does not exacerbate the situation because Estonian farmers have begun to cultivate more winter crops.

"Empty patches are beginning to show in fields, but winter crops are still holding out," he said, adding that "water shortages are beginning to hit the topsoil and sandier areas."

Fortunately, he said, Estonian farmers have been adjusting their crop composition for years.

"If we were in the same position as we were 10 to 20 years ago, with predominantly summer crops, we might have experienced a disastrous year. But, fortunately, we have begun to cultivate a great deal of winter crops, which benefit from the precipitation of autumn, winter and spring and are less affected by the summer drought. Many summer crops, such as peas, beans and corn, cannot be sown in autumn, which makes it more difficult to cultivate in such conditions."

He said this is the third consecutive year of drought in Estonia, but that prior years' droughts occurred in June-July, whereas this year's drought arrived in May.

Last year, when inexpensive feed maize from Ukraine was no longer available, Estonian farmers began growing more of it themselves, he said.

"In the autumn, it provides nutritious feed for dairy cattle. Our maize accounts already for over the half of the silage we need. In a wet year, everyone gets enough of grass silo, but in extreme years like this, those who are smarter about what they do are the ones who come out on top. Alfalfa, for example, is well tolerant of drought - it can get up to four mowing."

The previous year, 2022, was a successful year for farmers because numerous goods such as seeds, fertilizers, insecticides and fuel were purchased before the war, but the harvests were sold when prices rose, he said.

"On the global market, we sell cereals and rapeseed. It is a commodity traded on the stock market, and a great deal depends on emotions. The war affected people's emotions, and trading prices doubled. Prices were high for two or three months before beginning to stabilize, although they are still not at pre-war levels."

Ameerikas said that the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine pushed up grain prices by 2 percent, which is not excessive.

"The inundation caused the situation similar to as in the recent Kuressaare water crisis, where sewers and wells were 'connected.' If water is used for horticulture irrigation, millions of hectares of crop fields however cannot be irrigated in the same way," he said, adding that the significant decline in grain exports from Ukraine occurred last year."

Therefore, the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam will not have a significant impact on Ukraine's agricultural exports at this time, but it will have a significant impact on local produce.

"This is environmental degradation. How much sediment was likely behind the dam? When the silt that had accumulated there since 1941 was suddenly released, it contaminated many fields. It would be suitable as fertilizer in tiny quantities, but in such large quantities it poses a problem. It will take years to restore the fertility of the these fields," he said.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Kristina Kersa

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