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Hungarian fruit production threatened by extreme weather

Next year's fruit production in Hungary may be threatened by the fiercely dry weather recorded this summer. Neither the quality of the fruits nor the volume will be the same. The solution would be to expand the irrigated land and to modernise it.

Due to this year's droughty summer, the lack of rainfall and a lack of irrigation, some of Hungary's main fruit products, such as peaches, plums or apples, will be affected. Growers will harvest a smaller volume of fruit of smaller sizes. Not only will the quality be worse than it was last year, but prices will also not turn out to be as expected.

However, the impact of the weather conditions could be tackled with irrigation development, as only 20-25 percent of Hungarian orchards are irrigated, and some of these irrigation systems are outdated. Another way of dealing with the situation would be to promote technological developments and varietal renewals. Given the damage suffered by fruit trees due to the extreme weather, there will likely not be enough flowers on the trees next year and production volumes will lag behind the average. "The temporary cool-down promised for this week cannot help much. Damage could be alleviated, among other things, by using ice or frost protection, which protects plants not only from ice, but also from strong sunlight," said Mr Ledó Ferenc, president of the Hungarian Fruit and Vegetables Interprofessional Organization and Product Council (FruitVeB).

The colouring of the plums and summer apples hasn't developed sufficiently due to the extreme weather, as the fruit would require night temperatures to cool down to a minimum of 16 to 17 degrees Celsius, but they have actually been oscillating between 20 and 25 degrees for days. This, according to the president of FruitVeB, could in fact lead to a shift in prices in the negative direction.

For two of the most important fruits of the season, peaches and plums, a failure in the development of the harvest could lead to less fruit being used for fresh consumption and more for the production of brandy. Growers also have to count on harvesting in extraordinary heat conditions for up to 11 o'clock.

The situation is better for vegetable growers, as the proportion of irrigated areas reaches 60-70 percent, although sprinklers are the most commonly used system and these devices have the disadvantage of causing a significant loss of water due to evaporation, which has a great impact on the efficiency of the entire process.

If the humidity of the air was right, the heat would not be so dangerous. The problem is that, for a long time, the so-called atmospheric drought has hit the orchards and vegetable areas. This means that the relative humidity of the air has fallen below 60 percent, so that the foil tents and greenhouses cannot be ventilated properly, which also results in a loss of yield. This atmospheric drought has been the result of the very dry and hot air coming from Africa; a similar situation to the one observed two years ago, as pointed out by Mr Ledó Ferenc.

Moreover, Hungarian producers have to compete against Israeli, Spanish and Italian producers working with state-of-the-art technology. There is no doubt that to make it possible to supply up to one million gallons per hectare it would be necessary to invest in a suitable irrigation system.

Publication date: 8/9/2017


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