Argentina: September’s frost in Colorado River destroyed 70% of the fruit

The morning of September 23 was crucial to the Colorado River. There were strong winds and temperatures dropped to 7.5 degrees below zero, were they remained stuck for eight hours. Producers turned on their sprinklers and fires, but to no avail. It was a black day for this year’s production: 70% of the fruit was ruined, and 200 million pesos and 600 jobs positions were lost.

That same day, many farmers were forced to give up. September was driven by El Niño, marked by prolonged low temperature, and the farmers ended up exhausting their physical, psychological, and material reserves to face challenges.

Roberto Mellado, a producer said: "I am sure that there will be farmers who will abandon the activity because of the current situation. The few fruits that survived won’t have the quality they should have. We had fifteen continuous days of frost and we used up everything we had for the defences; despite our efforts, we couldn’t save the season."

Now, with the arrival of the reports of the affidavits, producers have begun to have a glimpse of how hard the year will really be for the sector. According to these, 80% of the peaches and cherries were lost, 70% of the plums, 50% of the red apple production, 70% of the Packham pears, and 60% of the Williams pears. The quality and color of the rest of the fruit left standing will be affected by the intense cold.

Those numbers will directly affect the operation of business in the Colorado River. According to the various reports collected, more than 600 jobs in the farms, mills and barns will be lost between August and March 2016. Fruit producers are considering the possibility of only maintaining their senior staff.

There will also be losses for 200 million pesos coming from the payment received by producers for their fruits, the salaries of staff working in the fields and barns, the fall in production at the sawmills and the inability to sustain employees and pay suppliers of the fruit sector.

The decline in the amount of fruit will directly affect the production of the Marketing and Processing Cooperative of Colonia Julia and Echarren Ltda, which will have to purchase products in other parts of the province to absorb this season’s large deficit. "No doubt this loss of fruit will directly affect us. We expected having an average crop and acquiring what we’re missing from other places to compensate, as we have been doing for years, from places such as Middle Valley, Conesa, or Viedma," said one of the people responsible for the administration.

These days, the Chamber of Producers is receiving various affidavits and they are having daily meetings to assess what steps could be taken to reduce the strong negative impact on the sector.


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