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Overview of damage by country
Frost hits European fruit and vegetable sector hard
The night frost has wreaked havoc in the European fruit and vegetable sector. A lot of early estimates have been made, but the real damage won't be known for another few weeks. A lot also depends on the weather in the coming weeks. In some countries it will continue to be cold and even snow. Other countries will start to warm up. A lot of growers are talking about a situation that they have never experienced before. Below there is a current overview of the frost damage in various European countries.
The total damage in Italy is huge, but hard to estimate. It concerns millions of Euros. There was a lot of hail at first and then the country was hit by frost. Between the regions of Veneto and Marken it wasn't a good Easter. A lot was damaged in the fruit cultivation and open ground cultivation by rain and hail. When it comes to apples in Trentino and South Tirol there is hail damage, but it's too early to say how much. Growers were prepared for the frost and there are early damage reports coming in from South Tirol that vary from 20 to 30%. The Emilia Romagna has been hit hard. An area of 450 hectares of vineyards has been considerably damaged there. There was also talk of 3 million tomato plants that have frozen to death. Other affected products are asparagus, soft fruit, stone fruit and strawberries. However, many more fruit and vegetables has been hit. It's too early for real estimates, but the fruit sector and grape sector are very concerned about the possible consequences of the cold. Various techniques and machines have been deployed to fight the frost, including helicopters. When it comes to kiwis in the region Lazio more than 60% of the harvest was affected.
Elbe Obst is an apple producer in the north of Germany and also has fruit areas around Hamburg. According to Frank Döscher the damage in the north isn't that bad. Most problems have been reported in the south of Germany. Damage has also been reported by growers in the east and west. Frank indicates that their growers are near large rivers which meant they could successfully irrigate. The total area for this company is around 10,000 hectares. Damage has been reported in cherry and strawberry cultivation. In the traditional early areas such as the Oberrheingraben, Neckarraum, Rheinessen, Mittelrhein and Südpfalz there has been a lot of damage to both top fruit and stone fruit. The temperatures in the Altes Land also dropped below freezing, but the blossoms there were still in the green and pink budding phase and so were less vulnerable. 6,000 ha of the 10,000 ha of top fruit there can also be irrigated. Over 200 ha of cherries are under foil caps there. More cold is expected over the coming days.
The apples in Poland weren't yet in bloom and so the frost had less impact and the damage is more limited than in Belgium and the Netherlands. According to Jan Nowakowski of Genesis Fresh it will be another two weeks before they know the exact figures. "At the moment estimates are being made of the damage and 15 to 20% is expected to be lost. The damage varies by region and so it is difficult to estimate what the total damage is. At the moment it is cold and rainy in Poland and this also has an impact. It is also possible it may freeze in May, so we will have to wait and see," according to Jan. As the apples in Poland were still budding, they had extra protection against the cold. The buds that were heavily damaged will not provide apples. This also means that the portion that survives will be of a large calibre. Jan indicates that the market is already out of tune. "Many customers are contacting me to close contracts as they fear shortages next season. It will be a very difficult season." Cherry and soft fruit growers have also been hit hard in Poland. There are estimates of losses among cherry growers of 70 to 80%. The frost damage varies by region. In one region it was more mild than in the next. Blueberry plants with certain varieties have also been hit, in particular the fragile varieties such as Draper and Liberty. A large harvest wasn't expected for this season anyway. For certain varieties it will be the end, as they will not even be suitable for the industry.
There are around 700 growers and 3,000 hectares of apple orchards in Austria. Insurance companies are working on collecting data, but it may take a while before everything is in. The apples were already in bloom when the cold weather hit, so this means that they must first see whether the blossom survived. Austria had a difficult season last year and growers hoped that this year would be normal. Temperatures up to -6 degrees Celsius caused heavy frost damage in Austrian production areas in the early hours of the 21st of April 2017. The areas of Steiermark, Kärnten, Südburgenland and some places in Niederösterreich, Oberösterreich, Tirol and Vorarlberg were particularly damaged. Mainly fruit tress were heavily damaged by the frost. In total over 12,000 hectare has been affected. According to the first figures we are assuming a total damage of over 50 million Euro. The total damage won't be able to be established for another few days," according to dr. Kurt Weinberger, president of the Austrian hail insurance, in a first intermediate balance.
In certain parts of Bulgaria the temperatures have dropped to minus four. This has caused huge damage among cherry growers. According to grower Plamen Mihaylov of Cherry Dream Ltd the largest region for cherry cultivation, Kustendil, has been considerably affected. This is in the south west of the country. There are losses up to 70%. Growers in the middle of the country, where Cherry Dreams is located, have less damage, around 20 to 30%. The company itself has protected its harvest in multiple ways and so it hasn't been too bad for them. The early cherries varieties has been particularly affected and many late varieties have no damage. Mihaylov indicates that there is also good news: the cherries that survive will have a larger size. The cherry harvest in the country will start around May 20th.
The temperatures in Ukraine haven't been extremely low, but it has snowed. This caused a lot of logistical problems and this is expected to influence the coming season. It is still too early to tell, but certain fruit varieties such as stone fruit and soft fruit have been affected. Little damage is expected for apple growers, as the trees weren't yet in full bloom. In Odessa candles were used to protect watermelon and melon plants in the tunnels. "They were used for multiple days, with success," according to Valentina Katsua on her Facebook page. Other traders report that early vegetables are late and that the prices of certain vegetables have increased greatly, including red beets, carrots and cabbages. There are shortages of various products. Traders are looking for carrots, potatoes and cabbage in Poland and the Netherlands in particular. It doesn't look like the weather situation will change soon. In the coming weeks more will be known. Meanwhile growers are doing everything they can to protect their production. In the south east of Ukraine the damage among top and stone fruit growers is estimated at around 30%.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina has also had a lot of snow. In certain parts there was even 20 cm. Temperatures below zero are expected to continue over the next few days. "There is fear for products such as apples, pears, plums and strawberries," says Bojan Kecman, minister of agriculture. Fruit growers in Bosnia and Herzegovina have enlisted the help of the army to fight the cold with helicopters. Another report from Bosnia and Herzegovina is that a lot of people are active in the orchards to create smoke with certain machines and save the harvest. A lot of fruit will also be irrigated. Despite all the efforts damage is expected. A lot of fruit is at the end of the blossoming period. In Bosnia and Herzegovina snow is expected on April 29 and it is slightly to snow on the following days as well. The temperature will also be below or around 0. This is causing a difficult situation for all fruit types. The snow is also causing tree branches to break. A real natural disaster.
Serbia has also been hit by the frost, but there aren't any official estimates yet. A lot of machines and systems have been used to fight the frost. Some estimate a loss of around 15% of the total apple production.
In Switzerland many orchards have been hit by the frost. Blossoming occurred two weeks earlier than usual here as it was still quite warm before Easter. The damage hasn't been fully estimated yet, but is likely to be big.
It was very cold in Belgium, down to minus 6. Various machines and products were used to keep the orchards warm, but this was for nought among many growers, as it only became a few degrees warmer and so the temperature was still below freezing. In Belgium they don't have enough water around to irrigate. The largest fruit region is Zuid-Limburg which was heavily damaged. The damage to apples in particular is huge. The first estimates reckon a damage of 50 to 75% of the apple trees, but later in the week this became almost 80%. Growers have faced a number of difficult years and don't know what to do. The damage may rise even further. A lot of apples were in full bloom. When the blossom freezes it is almost certain that there will be no apple. It is less clear for pears, this will become apparent over the coming weeks. They weren't as far as apples and were still budding. Many buds have partially blackened, but this doesn't mean there won't be a pear. A lot also depends on the weather in the coming weeks. Yet growers are still full of hope: pears may be able to save the season. The farmers bond asked growers, who estimated that 78% of the apples, 82% of the cherries and 63% of the pear have been hit.
In the Netherlands the damage varies hugely as a result of the night frost. In most areas it was possible to irrigate. In the Betuwe many growers were able to do so, but in Limburg this isn't possible in large areas. In Zeeland it varies by grower. We will have to see what the actual damage is," says Zweer van Aalsburg of FruitMasters. "For some growers it's a disaster. Growers in Limburg had hail damage last year and are now getting frost damage. In Belgium the damage is even higher than in the Netherlands and we will see how central Europe has been affected over the coming weeks. Poland is behind in blooming so the consequences there seem to be limited for now."
In France a lot of fruit varieties were affected by the frost. When it comes to cherries the area from Avignon up has been greatly affected. There are also reports of damage at Lyon towards the east. For peaches and nectarines it seems to be okay at the moment, but more information will arrive over the next few weeks. Table grapes in the region of Ventoux are largely damaged. Apples and pears in the south of France narrowly avoided frost. In the middle and north of France there were reports of top fruit damage. There are mixed estimated coming from the Loire Valley (which is huge). Some talk of 50% loss, but others say it isn't that bad. The prices are already expected to rise sharply.
Growers from Valencia have been affected by frost. In a report the growers union from Valencia (AVA-ASAJA) indicates that there were temperatures down to minus 5. This has caused a lot of damage. According to the organisation around 4,000 hectares of fruit was damaged in Los Serranos, including grapes, almonds, stone fruit and vegetables. The costs are estimated at around 4 million Euro. In the week before the Valencian region Utiel-requena around 10,000 hectares was damaged. The damage here will run into the millions as well.
There were also cold nights in the United Kingdom. The production of soft fruit in tunnels has been slowed down by the cold. Growers are most concerned about outside cultivation such as apples, cherries and pears. These are very vulnerable during the blooming period. At the moment the damage in the UK is still being estimated and more will be known this weekend. There are already some careful estimates of certain regions. In the east, towards Kent, the damage seems to be the most severe. In some orchards 50 to 80% is damaged. Asparagus hasn't been hit, but the production has been slowed down. Growers are also concerned for blueberries and beans.
Publication date: 4/28/2017
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