Producers in western Europe have once again had to contend with soaring summer temperatures, with likely impacts on the apple, pear, potato and vegetable markets

As the heatwave that struck western Europe this week heads east, fresh produce growers are left to assess the impact of this latest bout of extreme weather.

“We directly felt the heat wave in Europe,” said Arnaud De Puineuf of French apple producer Innatis, which is based near Angers. “Fortunately the extreme temperatures of 40C-plus only lasted one day. We had a lot of days of 30C-35C, but the nights remained relatively cool. No major damage has been observed on the fruits up to this date, although I think we may see a slowdown in fruit growth next week when we take our measurements.”

However, De Puineuf believes Innatis growers have adapted well, applying talc to prevent sunburn, while nets have also provided some protection.

“We use sprinklers and drip irrigation where possible to control the hygrometry,” he said. “Covers and other physical protection of the orchard are hugely important, while ensuring access to water is even more urgent at present.”

In Brittany, the heat was intense but short-lived, according to Pierre Gélébart of marketer Prince de Bretagne. “But the heat came on top of a longer-lasting drought that has affected some crops,” he added. “In Brittany, there are not many irrigated areas, which can cause difficulties in the event of drought.”

The marketer’s schedules were reportedly modified for seasonal workers in its tomato greenhouses to avoid the afternoon heat as much as possible.

In terms of vegetables, Gélébart said there had been some losses in Coco de Paimpol beans, with pods drying out in the field.

“The environment has also been difficult for artichokes, since the heads can get dehydrated quickly,” he continued. “For the new potato harvest, we find ourselves in competition with other production areas that are two weeks earlier than usual, so competition is high and prices are low this season.

“In terms of sales, the heat is generally worse for vegetables that require cooking than for raw vegetables. On top of this, there is pressure from buyers on prices due to the waning purchasing power of consumers, in particular for potatoes.”

In Belgium, Tony Derwael of apple and pear exporter BelExport said the heat was bound to have consequences for the European topfruit crop.

“Although temperatures reached 40C in Belgium, a welcome wind helped to prevent sunburn on the fruit, so there has been no disaster like four years ago,” he said. “Let’s hope the forecast hail storms do not cause much damage.”

Derwael said the situation had been worse in southern European countries like Spain and Italy. “Besides the very high temperatures, it has been very dry, and some fruits like pears that suffered from frost during the spring now have size issues. They expect the fruit will be up to 10mm smaller than normal. It is still too early to say, but for sure this will lead to a minimum 30 per cent smaller crop than normal.”