The impact of the frosts recorded at the end of week 13 and the beginning of week 14 in the stone and pip fruit producing areas of Catalonia and Aragon are making it increasingly evident that the volumes harvested in these areas, which account for more than 70% of the Spanish production, will be significantly reduced this year.
As the days go by, inspections continue in the fields in order to assess the condition of the flowers and how the fruit setting is going. "We don't yet have exact data on the extent of the damage. Crop forecasts will start to be made at the end of April and the figures will be announced in May. The figures then will be much more realistic, although no one is unaware that the impact of frost is obviously important, even more than last year's frosts," says Manel Simon, director of Afrucat, the Fruit Business Association of Catalonia.
There have been many hours at sub-zero temperatures. In general, most growing areas have been affected, although the intensity of the frosts has varied depending on the area. Some areas were already prone to these phenomena and have been able to make use of anti-freeze systems, however, even with these resources, damage has still been recorded.
"Not all producers have anti-freeze systems because there were no historical records that justified having this kind of installation. In the last two years, there have been frosts in areas where they weren't recorded before and this shows that something is changing in the climate, because now it seems that it can happen anywhere. For this reason, we are asking the public administrations to encourage investments in anti-freeze systems by water spraying, which are the ones that really work, in order to be better protected," says Manel Simón.
Apricots, both in Aragon and Catalonia, have been the most affected due to the phenological state in which they were, although in terms of volume, the volume loss will be more noticeable in the case of peaches and nectarines. There have also been frosts in France, and in those places the next apricot harvests have been practically wiped out. Apple and pear plantations have also been affected in Catalonia, although according to the director of Afrucat, the damage could be less significant than in the case of stone fruit and result in a significant thinning of the trees.
"The areas affected by the frosts account for more than 70% of the Spanish stone fruit production. Therefore, this year we will again see a mismatch between the supply and demand. There will be a much smaller supply of peaches and nectarines and the price should be higher, since costs have shot up by 35%, taking into account logistics, fuel, energy and packaging materials, such as cardboard and plastic. It is also worth recalling that we have a food chain law that prevents us from selling for prices below the production costs. For this reason, retailers should plan their orders now if they want to have enough stocks on their shelves. Of one thing we are sure, there will not be enough fruit for everyone and it will be more expensive," says Manel Simón.
The Afrucat representative also said that, given the much smaller harvest, there will not be as much need for laborers. This will depend on each area's degree of affectation, so the administrations are being asked for measures to compensate the workers that won't be needed.