The narrowing of the Rhine devastates German agriculture and energy sectors

Similar to what happens on the Mississippi River when water levels drop near zero, barge/vessel drafts are reduced. This means moving fewer products at a higher cost. HGK Shipping, Europe’s largest inland shipping company, said in a post on its LinkedIn page: “Freight has to be distributed to more and more ships and freight costs are rising. Half the freight means one second ship and with that the freight costs automatically doubled.”

“Furthermore, even though water levels are not yet as low as they were during the hot summer of 2018, when historic lows were reached, diesel prices are significantly higher today than before. they weren’t then,” said Martina Becker, heavy shipping manager. within the HGK group.

The current level noted above has not yet fallen below the lowest figure ever recorded on the Rhine, which was in October 2018. This measurement was then 25 cm and was taken from the same reference point in the river.

I was in Germany in October 2018 and traveled to the town of Bingen am Rhein in the district of Mainz-Bingen in Rhineland-Palatinate in southwestern Germany. Bingen is a port at the confluence of the Rhine and the Nahe. I saw barges moving in the middle of the river, but the drought was clearly visible along the dry shoreline, as you can see in the photo accompanying this article. The ferry was still operating, but eventually around half of Germany’s river ferries stopped operating in the fall of 2018, according to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration. Never-before-seen sandbars emerged in many places, and in some places unexploded bombs and grenades that had been submerged since World War II surfaced.

Dubbed the great drought of 2018, it ended up being a disaster across Germany, not only for much of the river transport industry, but also for most farmers. With virtually no rain and record temperatures since April of that year, grain and oilseed harvests were 50% to 70% below normal, and in other places nothing was harvested at all.

Now, in 2022, drought has hit farmers again not only in Germany, but across much of the EU “From France to Germany and from Hungary to Romania, a wide range of crops withered during summer heat waves, threatening to push food prices in the European Union higher and cut supplies for the world’s largest exporter of agricultural and food products,” Gro Intelligence said. The lowest soil moisture levels in at least a decade are weighing on sugar beets and potatoes – with France, Germany and Poland accounting for most of those crops. And in Romania, the EU’s biggest sunflower producer, ‘moderate’ drought levels point to a weaker harvest that could increase demand for EU vegetable oil imports. »

The head of Germany’s largest farmers’ group said the dry and hot conditions will likely lead to sharply reduced harvests in some areas. “Crop yields in some German regions are likely to be significantly lower than expected,” German Farmers’ Association (DBV) President Joachim Rukwied said on July 29. the hot summer and lack of rain have left vast tracts of arable land parched.”

Meanwhile, if the Rhine becomes impassable, everything that moves by barge/boat, including agriculture and key energy products, will be left homeless, crippling Germany’s already strained economy.

Mary Kennedy can be reached at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

James R. Rhodes