The unusually cold April has left its marks in Central Europe. In Hungary, for example, which is one of Europe's most important stone fruit growing countries. Despite the sluggish start to the season, there is no talk of a poor harvest year for the time being, said Sandor Makai (r), Managing Director of Makai Frucht and major supplier to the Vienna wholesale market.
To supplement domestic production, at this time of year Austria will import asparagus and strawberries from neighboring Hungary. "Both products are still only available in modest quantities due to the weather, and larger batches are not expected to arrive until week 20," Makai said.
For apricots, the current expectation is 70% failure.
Smaller cherry yields of good quality
Furthermore, the harvest started late due to the weather: the first strawberries from heated tunnels only arrived on April 10, with the first asparagus only coming in a few days earlier. "We don't expect the first outdoor strawberries until the end of May. Normally, the season would then end in mid/late June, but this year, a season extension is not out of the question."
Sweet cherries, grown in Hungary.
The most important sales pillar of the Hungarian agricultural industry, however, is still formed by stone fruit, particularly cherries, apricots and plums. Here, too, a delay of about 10 days should be expected, according to Makai. "In view of the cold April weather, we expect smaller yields of sweet cherries, but the individual fruits are developing excellently. Accordingly, we expect good fruit quality for the time being. The picture is similar for apricots, where the yield will be 70% below the average level," Makai explains.
Extension of the plum season
Makai does not want to make any statements on the exact extent of frost damage to stone fruits at this time. "There are hardly any damage reports in the eastern growing regions, but in the south we are observing greater damage. Here, too, however, the property damage varies from place to place," Makai says.
Frost protection within Hungarian stone fruit cultivation
Apart from cherries and apricots, plums are the third mainstay of Hungarian stone fruit exports. In this category, too, it is hard to assess the overall losses at present. Makai says, "From a longer-term perspective, we are now testing some new late varieties in cultivation so that we can possibly extend the season out to the end. Last year, we were already able to extend the marketing window a bit longer - around the end of October/mid-November."
Difficult marketing situation
The fruit expert runs his own stone fruit orchard in southeastern Hungary and markets his own produce and that of many growers in different regions directly at the Vienna wholesale market. "The Corona constraints and especially the closure of the hospitality industry are causing us problems both on the domestic market and in the export business. Nevertheless, due to the smaller volumes at this time of year, demand and supply are roughly in balance. However, when the larger volumes hit the market soon, things could get exciting."