"About 20 hectares of tomatoes damaged by hail, 75 more to harvest."

Last Saturday (September 23), some areas of Puglia were hit by violent and unforeseen extreme weather conditions, which mainly affected vegetable crops, vineyards and olive groves. We spoke with Marco Nicastro, president of Soc. Coop. Agricola Mediterraneo S.p.A., a company in the province of Foggia (Torremaggiore) with 500 hectares dedicated to the processing of tomatoes.

Left: Hail that fell on Saturday, September 23. Right: crops damaged by bad weather

"While we were harvesting, around noon, a whirlwind hit part of our area and turned into a thunderstorm with hail. In fact, bad weather was forecast for Sunday and Monday. So, we immediately stopped harvesting, knowing that we were going to start seeing damage soon. Dozens of empty bins were thus dragged 400-500 meters. According to initial estimates, 20-22 hectares of round and long tomatoes had a damage rate of even more than 80 percent, but in some plots the plants were completely dismantled, leaving only the surface irrigation system visible. Fortunately, the processing tomato campaign is almost over, otherwise the balance would have been worrisome."

The instability took shape under the sub-Appennine Dauno, extending between Lucera North, Torremaggiore, San Severo South and as far as Apricena, losing its intensity in Lake Lesina.

Marco Nicastro, entrepreneur and president of Soc. Coop. Agricola Mediterraneo S.p.A.

The Apulian entrepreneur explained that the berries most affected by the hail are not marketable for some planned processing (such as diced or peeled tomatoes), but still destined for industry for other uses (e.g. concentrate). "It hasn't even rained about 5 kilometers from the epicenter. We still have 75 hectares of tomatoes to harvest. We've been asking all our members for several years to take out insurance against unforeseen and destructive weather events in the face of accelerating climate change. At the very least, they should be able to recover their gross saleable production. Many farmers now see insurance not as an additional cost, but as a useful expense to limit business risks.

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