Major floods across much of Emilia Romagna have reportedly caused widespread disruption to the Italian region’s fruit and veg production and distribution networks

Devastating floods in Italy’s Emila Romagna region that killed nine people, displaced thousands, and left thousands more without electricity over the past couple of days have cast a major shadow over the area’s fruit and vegetable production.

The resulting widespread disruption for fresh produce companies and their employees in what is one of Europe’s leading sources of fruit and vegetables threatens to plunge the sector into crisis and lead to “incalculable” damage, said national farmers’ union Coldiretti.

Thousands of production sites across the region, including thousands of hectares of land planted with kiwifruit, plums, pears, apples, and vegetables, have been submerged by devastating floods which struck over the past couple of days.

According to Coldiretti, the fresh produce sector has been hit hardest. “The slow outflow of water left in the orchards suffocates the roots of the trees until they rot, and there is a risk that entire plantations will disappear and take years to return,” the group explained.

“There is a risk that an entire supply chain worth €1.2bn, made up of companies that make Romagna the Italian fruit valley, could be in crisis.”

Coldiretti president Ettore Prandini added: “Now the priority is to save human lives, but it is immediately necessary to implement any useful action aimed at economic and productive recovery, as the very survival of hundreds of companies and the workers who depend on them is at stake.”

Situation still critical

One of the major problems for produce companies in the region was the fact that staff were unable to reach their places of work.

“I would say we hit the worst last night [Wednesday 17 May] but the situation is still critical and the water continues to flow,” said Rita Biserni, international marketing manager at Faenza-based Alegra, Italy’s largest fruit and veg supplier. The centre of the nearby town was also completely submerged.

“Considering that almost all of the personnel cannot reach the packing centre, an enormous effort is being made in the company to guarantee operations and to be able to fulfil active orders,” Biserni added.

Pietro Terlingo, head of fresh produce at retail group Coop Alleanza 3.0, told Italiafruit News: “These are really complicated days for our entire network, which extends from Pesaro to Bologna. At some points of sale we have suffered considerable damage, such as the Ipercoop in Cesena, which found itself right in the epicentre of the Savio river flooding.”

Other shops avoided direct damage but were reportedly cut off by the high water, he added.