A prolonged hard frost in Belgium’s major fruit-growing region of Flanders last week had a devastating effect on crops, according to grower body Boerenbond.
The organisation said frosts over April 19-20 had been “much stronger than forecasts had predicted.”
In south Limburg, a Flanders province that produces more than half of Belgium’s free fruit, temperatures reached -6°C, which Boerenbond said made them the worst blossom-time frosts for over 25 years.
They also coincided with blossom that was two weeks early due to warm weather.
The grower body said various protective measures were taken, even including the deployment of a helicopter, but fruit crops were still severely affected.
Having since assessed the damage, it estimates that 78% of the apple harvest will be lost.
In cherries, losses were also great despite being better protected overall, Boerenbond said.
“We’re talking average losses of 82% on plots without protection, but up to 56% even on plots where protection measures were taken.”
Pear losses are expected to be around 63% on unprotected plots, 37% on those with protection.
Frosts last week also impacted on apple growers in northern Italy, with varying accounts as to the severity of the damage.
Temperatures dipped below freezing over two nights last week in the northern regions of South Tyrol and Trentino.
Speaking with PBUK, a representative of Subtiroler Obstversteigerung (Asta Frutta) said the industry would need to wait a while longer to fully evaluate the damage.
“It’s not so easy to say now how much has been damaged – we will have to wait for about two weeks,” general manager Georg Theiner said.
“There is some damage in regions of South Tyrol and Trentino in the north of Italy…but whether it is 5%, 10%, or 20% I cannot say.”
He added that overall it seemed the frosts were more severe than those received last year.
In terms of varieties, Theiner believed Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Granny Smith would be the most heavily affected.