Greek agriculture devastated for five or more years

Greek agriculture devastated for five or more years
The once-fertile plain of Thessaly, inundated by flooding after Storm Daniel / Makis Theodorou
By by Roberta Harrington in Los Angeles September 25, 2023

Storm Daniel wiped out a quarter of Greece’s annual farming production, as a result of deadly flash flooding that submerged fields and drowned livestock.

The central region of Thessaly was especially hard hit. Thessaly produces a quarter of the country’s food.

Mud and silt from the flooding could make the region unproductive. Efthymios Lekkas, a disaster management expert, told Greek state television that it will take five or more years for the region to become fertile once more. 

“The agricultural production isn't destroyed just for this year. The thick coat of silt means it is no longer fertile," he said.

“We've had the worst floods in our history,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis added after meeting the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Strasbourg. “This is probably one of the most powerful storms to ever hit Europe,”

Storm Daniel caused record-breaking rainfall in Greece on September 5-6, with a reported 750mm falling in 24 hours in Zagora, equal to about 18 months of typical rainfall.

In Thessaly, many stations received 400mm to 600mm of rainfall in 24 hours, reported the World Meteorological Organisation.

At the time, Greece was battling Europe’s biggest ever wildfire prompted by the country’s hottest summer on record.

The flooding from Storm Daniel killed 15 people, and the economic consequences are expected to be dire.

More than 110,000 chickens, cows, goats, pigs and sheep were reported missing. And according to the Copernicus monitoring service, around 73,000 hectares were submerged. Thirty villages had been inaccessible.

The once-fertile plain in the region of Thessaly accounts for around a quarter of the country’s wheat and barley, more than 30% of its cotton, chickpeas, lentils and pistachios, one fifth of the country’s hay – used for livestock – and half of the agribusiness tomato production, reported Politico.

Thessaly’s regional governor, Kostas Agorastos, has estimated the damage at €2bn ($2.1bn) or more.

The prime minister has requested financial aid from the EU, and von der Leyen has said that Greece should be able to draw on €2.25bn from the bloc in the short term.

The storm became a ferocious ‘medicane’ because of warming caused by climate change, said meteorological experts.

The storm may have killed as many as 11,300 people in Libya, where two dams burst and submerged much of the city of Derna.