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Still a large supply now, shortages imminent

Heatwave threatens fresh produce cultivations in Southern and Eastern Europe

The long-lasting heatwave in Southern and Eastern Europe has had a major effect on the cultivation and trade of fruits and vegetables, especially in Italy and the Balkans. Certain harvests are several weeks advanced, which is why there’s now a larger supply of fruits and vegetables in some countries.

However, in the long term, the heat could cause enormous shortages. By now, eleven European countries are giving out warnings for heatwave ‘Lucifer.’ A water shortage is an increasing problem, and there’s been much less rain than usual. Harvests are damaged because of this, and growers expect losses and smaller sizes. The damages and losses up till now are not yet clear. Especially Italy is suffering because of the extreme weather. In June, they were plagued by drought, causing a critical situation. Heavy weather in July came on top of that.

Harvests withering
In the Balkans, Italy and Greece, Lucifer is bringing temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius, causing harvests to wither. In Italy, it hasn’t been this dry in 60 years. Italian media Telenord reports that many fruits and vegetables ripen quicker than in previous years. Much fresh produce is still on the market now, but shortages of certain products will start occurring in the coming weeks. Examples are tomatoes, aubergines and bell peppers. Besides, the heat also has an effect on harvests of autumn and winter crops, such as cabbages and leafy vegetables.

Situation in Italy - grapes and stone fruit
Maurizio Ventura of Sun World Italy says something about the grape situation in Apulia and the stone fruit in Emilia-Romagna. 

“Fortunately, plenty of water is still available for our producers in both regions. They mostly use drip irrigation, and this results in a very good distribution of the available water compared to other systems. Thanks to this technical solution, the growers are not yet faced with specific limitations. In Apulia this results in very good quality for the table grapes, with high brix levels. Besides, the grapes don’t have to be treated for fungus diseases as much,” he explains. In Emilia-Romagna, the sugar content in stone fruit is very good. “The heat burnt some crops a little, and, additionally, the size of the fruits has been affected: sizes are generally a bit smaller than in previous years. Harvest periods are also shorter. The picking of individual varieties is more concentrated, and they are about ten days ahead with the harvest compared to 2015.”

According to information from the Italian authority Coldiretti Puglia at the start of August, prices have collapsed. Watermelons cost less than 10 cents per kilogram, other melons less than 30 cents. Besides, vegetables such as courgette, bell pepper and tomatoes are available at cheap prices. In June and July, many fruits and vegetables were harvested at the same time, and the market is now being flooded.  

The heatwave in Spain is not severe for the Spanish agriculture although it is affecting in some ways. It already caused the earlier harvest of summer fruit and a big concentration of supply from different producing areas in the previous months.

In Murcia, the drought could be a problem for the next season if it doesn't rain soon, as it is always the driest region in Spain as well as the biggest producing area. They are looking for solutions to bring water from other parts of Spain in the future. At the moment is not a real problem and they have already programmed the supply for their clients, according to Proexport .

In Castilla -La Mancha, inland Spain, the temperatures remain no lower than 40 degrees, and its extremely dry, which it's accelerating the growth of late and long storage onions and therefore the sizes will be much smaller.

Not a smaller volume
According to Belgian importers, the effect of the heat hasn’t been noticed regarding shipments from Southern Europe. Cédric Geens from Jonckheere indicates that the heat in Spain cannot be called extreme according to many Spanish suppliers. “It’s a normal summer for them. Regarding weather circumstances, the spring was perfect. Plenty of rain, chilly nights and good weather during the day. They are ten days ahead of the regular harvest.” 

He has noticed that there definitely isn’t less supply now. “On the contrary, there’s very much trade this year. For all products, actually. We currently have a large supply of all kinds of stone fruit, and all kinds of melons.” According to him, sales in Belgium are more difficult than in previous years. “This can be blamed on the holiday period. People go on holiday more often and for longer times because of the many cheap airplane tickets.”

Eat fruits and vegetables
In Italy, advice has been given out to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables against the heat. At least that’s positive for the sector.    

Publication date: 8/7/2017


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