Frost hits European fruit and vegetable sector hard
A lot of early estimates have been made, but the real damage won't be known for another few weeks. A lot also depends on the weather in the coming weeks.
In some countries it will continue to be cold and even snow. Other countries will start to warm up.
A lot of growers are talking about a situation that they have never experienced before. Below there is a current overview of the frost damage in various European countries.
The total damage in Italy is huge, but hard to estimate. It concerns millions of Euros. There was a lot of hail at first and then the country was hit by frost.
Between the regions of Veneto and Marken it wasn't a good Easter. A lot was damaged in the fruit cultivation and open ground cultivation by rain and hail-
Elbe Obst is an apple producer in the north of Germany and also has fruit areas around Hamburg. According to Frank Döscher the damage in the north isn't that bad. Most problems have been reported in the south of Germany. Damage has also been reported by growers in the east and west.
The apples in Poland weren't yet in bloom and so the frost had less impact and the damage is more limited than in Belgium and the Netherlands. According to Jan Nowakowski of Genesis Fresh it will be another two weeks before they know the exact figures.
"At the moment estimates are being made of the damage and 15 to 20% is expected to be lost."
There are around 700 growers and 3,000 hectares of apple orchards in Austria. Insurance companies are working on collecting data, but it may take a while before everything is in.
The apples were already in bloom when the cold weather hit, so this means that they must first see whether the blossom survived.
Austria had a difficult season last year and growers hoped that this year would be normal. Temperatures up to -6 degrees Celsius caused heavy frost damage in Austrian production areas in the early hours of the 21st of April 2017.
In certain parts of Bulgaria the temperatures have dropped to minus four. This has caused huge damage among cherry growers. According to grower Plamen Mihaylov of Cherry Dream Ltd the largest region for cherry cultivation, Kustendil, has been considerably affected.
This is in the south west of the country. There are losses up to 70%. Growers in the middle of the country, where Cherry Dreams is located, have less damage, around 20 to 30%.
The temperatures in Ukraine haven't been extremely low, but it has snowed. This caused a lot of logistical problems and this is expected to influence the coming season. It is still too early to tell, but certain fruit varieties such as stone fruit and soft fruit have been affected.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has also had a lot of snow. In certain parts there was even 20 cm. Temperatures below zero are expected to continue over the next few days.
"There is fear for products such as apples, pears, plums and strawberries," says Bojan Kecman, minister of agriculture.
Serbia has also been hit by the frost, but there aren't any official estimates yet. A lot of machines and systems have been used to fight the frost. Some estimate a loss of around 15% of the total apple production.
In Switzerland many orchards have been hit by the frost. Blossoming occurred two weeks earlier than usual here as it was still quite warm before Easter. The damage hasn't been fully estimated yet, but is likely to be big.
It was very cold in Belgium, down to minus 6. Various machines and products were used to keep the orchards warm, but this was for nought among many growers, as it only became a few degrees warmer and so the temperature was still below freezing.
In Belgium they don't have enough water around to irrigate. The largest fruit region is Zuid-Limburg which was heavily damaged.
In the Netherlands the damage varies hugely as a result of the night frost. In most areas it was possible to irrigate. In the Betuwe many growers were able to do so, but in Limburg this isn't possible in large areas. In Zeeland it varies by grower. "We will have to see what the actual damage is," says Zweer van Aalsburg of FruitMasters.
"For some growers it's a disaster. Growers in Limburg had hail damage last year and are now getting frost damage. In Belgium the damage is even higher than in the Netherlands and we will see how central Europe has been affected over the coming weeks. Poland is behind in blooming so the consequences there seem to be limited for now."
In France a lot of fruit varieties were affected by the frost. When it comes to cherries the area from Avignon up has been greatly affected. There are also reports of damage at Lyon towards the east.
Growers from Valencia have been affected by frost. In a report the growers union from Valencia (AVA-ASAJA) indicates that there were temperatures down to minus 5. This has caused a lot of damage.
According to the organisation around 4,000 hectares of fruit was damaged in Los Serranos, including grapes, almonds, stone fruit and vegetables. The costs are estimated at around 4 million Euro.
In the week before the Valencian region Utiel-requena around 10,000 hectares was damaged. The damage here will run into the millions as well.
There were also cold nights in the United Kingdom. The production of soft fruit in tunnels has been slowed down by the cold. Growers are most concerned about outside cultivation such as apples, cherries and pears. ■