Droughts, floods, hail, unseasonably warm temperatures and a resulting higher risk of disease mean this year’s initial forecasts have been trimmed

Climate warming has been cited as the main reason for a dramatic revision in this year’s European apple and pear forecasts.

According to a press release issued by the World Apple and Pear Association (Wapa), “regional adjustments” following a number of major weather-related challenges mean that EU apple production is now predicted to fall below 11m tonnes in 2023/24, around 4 per cent lower than the original forecast.

For pears, revised estimates in Italy, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands have brought the provisional new-season crop forecast a further 6 per cent lower, to around 1.72m tonnes.

At Prognosfruit in early August, EU apple production was forecast to decrease 3.3 per cent to 11.410m tonnes, and the pear crop was forecast down 12.9 per cent at 1.746m tonnes.

“The early forecast is released during Prognosfruit, when harvesting is just about to start,” Wapa said in a statement. “The crop can therefore still be impacted by nature and climatic factors up to late October, with either a positive or negative impact on the quantity and quality of the harvest.”

Historically, however, such adjustments only tend to amount to small percentage changes. This year’s revision could therefore be seen as a further sign of the climate’s increased volatility.

“The first updates from Prognosfruit’s network of national producing associations indicate that climate change-related conditions negatively affected the crop in the weeks following the publication of the original estimates,” the association added.

“The climatic havoc included droughts, [floods], hail, warm nights, and an increased risk of pests across the EU. In other cases, rains and colder nights have positively impacted the size development and colouring respectively in some producing regions.”

Photo: VIP Val Venosta