Weather devastation in Italy and Spain revealed

The impact of the cold weather that has gripped Europe in the past few weeks is beginning to be laid bare with regions in Italy and Spain reporting product losses of between 80 and 100 per cent in some cases.

In Italy, the agricultural sector has estimated the “polar cold wave” has caused losses of more than €500 million, the European Fresh produce Association Freshfel has quoted the country’s Agenzia Giornalistica Italia as saying.

The Piedmont region in Italy has been hit hardest, with weather plunging from 15°C to lows of -22°C, according to Italy’s Fruit and Services Centre (CSO).

It said the temperatures have caused damage to the buds of kiwifruit and have potentially wiped out four fifths of the crop there.

The CSO’s Barbara Brunello said in the province of Verona, where temperatures fell to -15°C, producers have reported they are fearful of the damage the cold weather has caused.

However, because there are no visible signs that the fruit has been badly affected, Brunello explained producers there are unwilling to make predictions on the amount of the produce that may have been lost in the cold snap.

It is a difficult picture in different area of Italy because while in some places temperatures have plunged other areas have enjoyed 15C to 16C heats. This makes it difficult to quantify the exact burden of production in relation to cold weather damage in a particular area.

In Spain, reports suggest up to 95 per cent of artichoke and 80 per cent of lettuce produced in the Murcia region has been lost.

Europa Press has also reported that Swiss chard and escarole have been badly hit by the weather.

In the case of Spanish fruit, in particular stonefruit, Europa Press estimated 100 per cent of extra early varieties have been lost, along with as much as 45 per cent of early varieties.