Italy: Abnormal cold front in the south

The cold front that hit Italy, and southern Italy in particular (mainly Puglia and Basilicata and Calabria and Campania to a lesser extent), was extremely abnormal and unexpected. Temperatures dropped to -8°C.

According to Coldiretti Puglia, the worst situation was registered in the Taranto and Foggia areas, were farmers had to use their own equipment to clean the roads in order to reach their crops.

In the meantime, winter vegetables were damaged by the frost and heating costs in greenhouses and stables have skyrocketed.

Citrus groves were also damaged, although the extent may only be assessed over the next few days, provided that weather conditions improve. Table grape vineyards collapsed under the weight of the snow, even in the areas closest to the sea.

Confagricoltura Taranto reports that vegetables and citrus fruit are the most affected by the low temperatures, even though greenhouse crops are also being affected by the heavy snowfall. Growers in this area cultivate around 90% of the clementines as well as most of the oranges produced in this region. 

Strong winds also compromised crops, especially in the Foggia area.

Agro di Castellaneta
Beets and cabbage in Castellaneta and Ginosa are completely covered in snow. "It's impossible to move even with off-road vehicles, there are over 60-70 cm of snow. Damage will be consistent if the temperatures continue to drop," reports a producer.

Another producer refers to preparing citrus groves for the winter with particular treatments already in November. "Plants may have been damaged nonetheless, as these temperatures are abnormal and haven't been increasing. It will be possible to make an assessment only when the situation will improve."

Many supporting structures, nets and covers have been damaged due to the weight of the snow. "Nobody expected a situation like this, some greenhouses have collapsed. Our kiwi orchard has collapsed due to the weight of the snow."

Artichokes not doing better
"Artichoke crops will take at least 60 days to become productive again and, if temperatures remain low, even 80-90 days. Then we may have to produce only for the processing industry and at low prices, with no profit whatsoever for the rest of the year." 

Entrepreneur Carmela Suriano reports that "we hadn't seen such low temperatures in Basilicata and Puglia for decades. We are assessing how they have affected the crops, though it is still early, as things are expected to get worse over the next few days. Arboreal plants are normally more resistant to low temperatures, though the fact that they are remaining so low may constitute a problem."

"While it is true that we had to deal with frost in the past, it never lasted this long. Even though strawberries are located in polytunnel-greenhouses, the first blossoming is definitely lost. We usually start harvesting around 20th January, but now we will have to wait for mid-February or early March. Open-field vegetables have been completely destroyed."

Producers worried for fennel
"The situation is particularly worrying because frost is affecting all the regions where fennel is produced at the same time. I have never seen anything like this," comments a producer.

"Frost is a real problem for fennel, as it marks the vegetables and may even make them impossible to harvest. This is what worries producers the most. We will know more in the next few days." 

"At the moment, Calabria and Piana del Sele seem to be the areas least affected, while Puglia and Metapontino are the ones enduring the worst conditions. We would need some good weather, but forecasts have predicted a short truce followed by a new cold front."

Forecasts up to January 17th
As reported on, a cold front from the Balkans (currently experiencing temperatures between -20 and -30°C) is expected. 

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