Sudden bouts of frost, plummeting temperatures, rainfall and even hail across Europe have left an air of uncertainty hanging over the heads of growers.
According to Philippe Binard, general delegate for European fresh produce industry forum Freshfel, “unprecedented frosts” in multiple European countries have left a trail of destruction across several crops, including stone fruit, apples and pears.
However it is still too early to put any real figure on production losses or how badly quality may be affected.
Frosts have hit much of Europe recently including Austria, France, Greece, Turkey, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Italy, the UK and the Czech Republic. They followed serious weather conditions at the start of the year in key growing regions in Spain, and to a lesser extent Italy, which badly damaged vegetable and salad crops, leading to shortages in the UK.
“We have been following this because it is unprecedented frosts affecting different crops in different countries. However, at this stage, it is very difficult to put a figure on both the quantitative and qualitative consequences of the frost because there are still a number of assessments that are being made,” Binard tells PBUK.
“Nature has obviously been affecting crops, but it could also help the production to revive a little bit. We do not know yet.
“What is sure is that there will be a very unusual crop for a number of stone fruits and the frosts will definitely severely impact the apple and pear season. And really when you look at apple and pears, most of the main producing countries have been affected; Poland, Italy, France and also central European countries like Hungary and Austria.”
Binard adds how some Balkan countries outside of the EU have also been affected as well as Ukraine.
“This is something that is massively impacting the whole of Continental Europe, and this is why it’s a serious issue.
“Most of the contacts that we have in different countries are telling us that they are conducting an additional assessment because each of the orchards might have a different story, and therefore to put the figures together now is something that is quite difficult.”
Binard also says that the latest bout of frosts came at a time when some seasons were already quite advanced due to a mild winter across many European countries.
“There are a lot of different situations across the European region. In some growing situations there has been fruit that has already flowered, but now the possibility of having a second flowering may be affected.
“And because of the mild winter in several countries across Europe, the season for some crops was already a bit more advanced and there were a number of trees that were bearing little fruits.
“This fruit has been affected but is continuing to grow so I think all of that means we need to asses whether that will be a qualitative loss or something else.”
Freshfel will be closely monitoring the situation and production losses will become clearer in the coming weeks once assessments have been finalised.
“If we want to be serious with our estimations and the impact of the frosts, I think it’s too dangerous at this point to come with some figures and be wrong. The picture will become clearer in the first fortnight of June,” Binard adds.
Freshfel has a number of meetings scheduled with growers and organisations in the weeks ahead.
“In this sector we are used to climatic problems. Look at what has happened this last winter with vegetables from Spain and Italy. We are a sector that is used to climatic havoc which impacts on production and could also impact on consumption.
“If we have a very cold summer in our region, there is not so much of a demand for peaches, nectarines or tomatoes and so on.”