German firefighters arrive in Sweden to fight scathing flames

Help from Germany has arrived in Sweden in order to fight an outbreak of forest fires described as the most serious in modern times.

German firefighters arrive in Sweden to fight scathing flames
Firefighters on Sunday were battling around 50 wildfires. Photo: DPA

A total of 52 firefighters from the Nienburg district of Lower Saxony arrived on Sunday in nine fire trucks, said the state’s lower ministry.

“Their location is Älvdalen which lies in the most affected region Dalarna,” they said, referring to the area in central Sweden.

Firefighters on Sunday were battling around 50 wildfires after an unprecedented drought in the region and historically high July temperatures, which are hotter than they have been in at least 260 years.

Sweden had asked the German government for help in order to get a grip on the devastating fires.

“The idea of ​​European solidarity is of particular importance to us. And of course we offer help and support wherever we can,” said Lower Saxony's Interior Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD).

Hartmut Ziebs, president of the German fire service (DFV) posted a photo of the newly arrived trucks on Facebook, saying that after a short break following the journey to Sweden, that the firefighters would get to work on Monday.

Fire trucks are in particularly high demand in Sweden, as they can carry larger amounts of water. The firefighters from Lower Saxony were initially requested for a week for use in Sweden.

Firefighters from the Hanover region and Bavaria are also available as a reserve and could be sent to Sweden if necessary.

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Drought causes potato prices to rise by more than half – and they have more flaws

After massive crop losses due to the drought that plagued Germany this year, potato prices for consumers have risen by more than half – and they have more blemishes.

Drought causes potato prices to rise by more than half - and they have more flaws
Photo: DPA

But experts said consumers do not have to fear empty shelves, and that the flaws in Kartoffeln – a staple in the German diet – are purely cosmetic and do not impact the quality of the food.

Currently, customers in supermarkets have to pay around 84 cents per kg for potatoes in small packages, whereas the price per kg a year ago was 55 cents.

Christoph Hambloch, analyst at the Agricultural Market Information Service (AMI) in Bonn, reported the latest cost increase on Monday, and warned there could be further price hikes in spring.

Consumers should also be prepared for more potatoes that are not completely perfect in appearance. During years with better harvests, products with 'beauty blemishes' wouldn’t be sent to supermarkets to be sold.

But in view of the current shortage, there are currently more potatoes with dark spots and other blemishes finding their way onto shop shelves. Hambloch explained, however, that these are purely optical defects which have no influence on how the food tastes.

As we reported earlier this year, supermarkets, including Rewe and its sister shop Penny, agreed to buy more produce with 'beauty errors' due to the problems faced by the agriculture industry this year.

However despite there being around 3 million tons fewer potatoes in the harvest this year compared to last year, there won’t be a shortage, according to experts.

It just means that there will be reduced potato exports and increased imports, especially in the first part of next year.

Potato farmers who have reaped a significant harvest despite the drought could benefit from selling to supermarket vendors at significantly higher prices. Producer prices for selling potatoes have more than doubled from €10 per 100 kg to €25 to €26

Problems could arise with farmers who had already marketed their harvest in advance at fixed prices, Hambloch said. The situation may also affect others in the food industry, such as peeling companies, particularly in eastern Germany.

The German association of fruit, vegetable and potato processing industry (BOGK) also raised concerns over the harvest, saying it reached a historical low of 8.7 million tons. They added that 2020's crop will be affected in a negative way because the seed potatoes, especially for the early crop potatoes, will not be sufficiently available.

SEE ALSO: Farmers to get €170 million in state aid after drought ruins harvest

The dry spring and summer has caused huge problems for Germany, resulting in farmers’ crops being damaged and extremely low water levels.

In August Germany's Agriculture Ministry agreed to compensate farmers whose businesses were threatened by one of the worst droughts in years.

Meanwhile, months of drought left water levels on Germany's Rhine river at a record low, exposing a World War II bomb and forcing ship operators to halt services to prevent vessels from running aground.

SEE ALSO: 'We need intense rainfall' – drought cripples crucial German waterways