Britain declares drought in eastern region

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Britain on Friday declared a drought in an eastern region of the country following one of the driest springs for a century, warning farmers faced major problems because of the lack of rain.

Parts of East Anglia, a region where farming is a major sector, were now officially in drought, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Parts of southern and central England and Wales were also experiencing near-drought conditions, said the department.

"Drought has hit parts of East Anglia, with other areas in England and Wales also giving grounds for concern," said environment minister Caroline Spelman.

"Water companies are confident that supplies are high enough so that widespread restrictions to the public are unlikely."

But the dry weather was a a major danger for farmers, with cereal crops particularly hard hit, said DEFRA.

"Agriculture in particular has been affected by the dry weather, with the overall picture mixed for producers and growers," said the department in a statement.

"The lack of rainfall is now causing more general challenges for the sector and some cereal crops are already facing irreversible effects."

Farmers, water companies and environment groups were holding a crisis meeting on Friday to discuss how to combat the dry conditions, officials said.

England and Wales this year had the second driest spring since 1910 and driest since 1990, according to weather monitoring service the Met Office.

The unusually dry conditions sparked rare wildfires in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in May.

Northern Europe has been suffering tinder-dry conditions for the past few months. France on Thursday announced a billion euros ($1.5 billion) in aid to farmers hit by drought.

© 2011 AFP

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