Abnormal weather in May in many European countries has already led to revisions of the forecasts for the fruit harvest. And although it is only possible to assess the damage with a high probability in two or three weeks, EastFruit experts talked to gardeners and industry associations of several countries.
During the survey, it turned out that the weather conditions of May 2019 can adversely affect not only the harvest, but also the quality of the apple. In addition, even the drought and hot weather of last summer has already affected the state of the gardens this year, and will also have certain consequences.
First of all, we note that a large number of negative reports in the press about frosts, rains and cold weather have already contributed to an increase in prices for an apple. If before that, in Western Ukraine and in Poland, it was easy to buy wholesale lots of apples of “slow-moving” varieties at 12–14 cents per kg, at the moment prices, especially in the high-quality apple segment, have increased significantly. Strangely enough, the high prices of traditional vegetables, which generally beat all records, play a significant role in this. It turns out that for onions in retail chains one has to pay 3-4 times more than for an apple.
As for the May frosts, they caused real damage to apple orchards, mainly in the central regions of Poland, where the main production volumes are concentrated. Gardens with frost protection systems were not affected at all. In gardens without these systems, where no measures have been taken (such as making fires at night), the potential yield losses are estimated at 30-50%, although many farmers say 100% loss. However, our reliable sources so far do not confirm such losses, except, perhaps, those apple orchards that were too weakened because the crop remained in the trees for the winter .
In addition to the frosts in May, insufficient pollination due to cold weather and an excessive crop load in some orchards last year also had a negative impact on the apple harvest in Poland. Also, apple orchards were partially exhausted due to the hot summer of 2018 and drought. Accordingly, if the apple harvest in Poland in 2018 was estimated at 4.5 million tons, then this season, taking into account the above factors, as well as the uprooting of some of the old gardens, the apple harvest is expected to decrease to 3.5-3.7 million tons .
Of course, the big question remains, what kind of apple harvest in 2018 was actually harvested in Poland. Many claimed a total of 5 million tons, and estimates from the local main statistics office indicate a more modest yield of 4 million tons. Nevertheless, a decline in the total apple shaft in Poland even by 700-900 thousand tons seems very likely, and this is even more than the total yield of the dessert apple in Ukraine, therefore, undoubtedly, it will not pass without a trace for the market.
“An even bigger problem for apple harvest in Poland will be the likely problems with product quality. May weather in 2019 and drought in 2018 can lead to apple trees being less resistant to diseases and pests, and the apple itself will be stored worse and worse transported. Accordingly, it is likely that a high-quality apple in Poland will enjoy good demand next season, ”says Kateryna Zvereva, development director of the Ukrainian Fruit and Vegetable Association (UPOA).
An additional negative impact on the quality of apples in the gardens of Poland and Western Ukraine will have an excessive amount of precipitation, which has already led to an increase in problems with scab and other diseases in the gardens. However, professional gardeners must cope with these problems.
East-fruit.com reported that in Ukraine, freezing of apple orchards did not lead to significant damage. Losses in the western regions of the country reached no more than 10-15%. However, in general, there were a lot of other factors that will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the apple harvest in 2019.
First of all, in Ukraine there are too many extensive and semi-intensive gardens, which last season brought some losses to the owners. As a result, part of the gardens was uprooted, albeit smaller than gardeners had originally stated .
Those that remained, in the hope of higher prices, this year will not provide last year's yields, as many of these orchards suffer from the frequency of fruiting. And the load on the trees last year was high.
Also in the western regions of Ukraine there were problems with pollination of gardens due to rainy and cold weather during flowering, which undoubtedly adversely affect the yield of gardens. And the extreme weather conditions of the past year can also affect the quality of the apple.
It should be noted that the main volume of the commodity apple is produced in the western regions of Ukraine, therefore, in aggregate, all these factors, according to our estimates, will reduce the yield of the dessert apple by about 90-110 thousand tons, which is quite a lot for Ukraine, which for the whole season exports only about 65 thousand tons of apple, of which a significant part is industrial apple for processing into juice and apple concentrate.