Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Severe drought impacts economies linked to the Danube

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The most severe Danube drought in centuries has caused serious damage to countries whose economies are strongly tied with the big Central European river.

Very low-levels of water made the commercial navigation of the river extremely difficult adding further obstacles to trade sectors already affected by the war in Ukraine.

The most critical points are in Romania not far from the Delta and the port of Constanta, Edmon Șandru is a  Danube grain transporter.

We have units of 1,000, to 1,200 Tons, and during the period when there was no water we loaded somewhere around 700, maximum 740 Tons, so almost half. We were only using around 60% of our capacity.

High demand for Ukrainian grain shipments from the Danube ports of Reni and Ismail provided a lifeline for shippers during these dry times. On the Tulcea-Galati-Constanta route, water-levels have allowed barges to reach the port of Constanta close to their limits.

Daniel Georgescu of the Waterways Administration of Constanța, said this year has been one of the worse he’s seen. 

I called it a calamity, from my point of view. At Cernavodă, the water-level was 1.4 meters compared to the 4.7 metres that it is now. It was a huge drop, I think this has been the hardest summer in the 11 years since I have been managing this company.

At the beginning of August, the authorities prohibited using water from the Danube Canal for irrigations. For two months, wheat, maize and sunflowers were at the mercy of the rainfall, and now, even autumn crops seem to be at risk.

Further upstream in Serbia there are the same concerns for a living system based of the waters of the Danube. Vladimir Djurdjevic is a climatologist.

On an annual level we have more or less the same precipitation as in the past, we even have a slight increase in the annual amount of accumulated precipitation, but what is happening is that we have this redistribution during the year, i.e. these dry periods have expanded, and then in short periods we have significantly higher amounts of precipitation

Like a chain reaction, all of the aspects of the drought that affected the level of the Danube will be reflected in the economy. It has already started to be seen in the price increases and it’s hard to predict just how bad the situation could become.



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