Photo by Europa Press
The frosts of last week caused damage to the stone fruit orchards of Lleida (Cataluña) that are in advanced stages of flowering, such as apricots, plums and the earliest nectarines. The areas most affected by the frost are those closest to the River Segre, such as Seròs, Massalcoreig, Torres de Segre, Alcarràs, Torrelameu, Corbins and Benavent de Segrià, areas in which temperatures have dropped to -5º Celsius, following a period of higher than average temperatures for this time of year, according to a Unió de Pagesos press release. La Unió has called on Cataluña’s Ministry of Agriculture to conduct a careful assessment of the frost damage, which could reach as high as 80-100% in apricot production areas, according to Afrucat estimates.
Uzbekistan is emerging as a key exporter of stone fruit. As of June 1, the central Asian country had exported 11,192 tons of apricots (worth US$10.9 million), according to the State Statistics Committee. The main markets are Kazakhstan (5,984 tons), Russia (3,600 tons) and Kyrgyzstan (1,210 tons). Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has also increased its exports of sweet cherries. Between January and April 2020, the country shipped 23,500 tons (US$48 million) of the fruit to 11 countries. These results are particularly impressive given the current pandemic. The largest markets for its sweet cherries are Kazakhstan (12,400 tons), Russia (6,700 tons), and Kyrgyzstan (4,100 tons), as well as South Korea, China, Poland, UAE, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, and Thailand.
Since the launch of the Carmingo® apricot range, International Plant Selection (IPS) has risen to the challenge of offering producers attractive, high-quality taste varieties on an extended maturity calendar with greater geographical adaptation, optimised thanks to their self-fertility. Resistance to Sharka is now one of the selection criteria, and thanks to the evolution of new technical selection tools (validation by the PROTOCOL PPV-Ctifl 2017-2019) IPS is now able to position its range. The year 2020 is marked by the official launch of the Carmingo®Primassi (cov) IPS27.12 variety, a two-tone self-fertile variety which is harvested 7 to 10 days after Colorado. Flowering is relatively late for an early-maturing variety. The vibrant orange fruit has a bright red overprint on 50 to 70% of the epidermis. Elliptical in shape it is fine textured, tender and juicy. The flavour is fragrant and aromatic. The production potential of the variety is confirmed in all areas of production with a 2A the dominant calibre.
Carmingo®Primassi (cov) apricot variety was successfully presented last May 28th in Ille-sur-Têt (France) at the farm of Mr Guillaumat, along with other promising and very Carmingo@Prialina (cov) apricot, harvested 10 days earlier. The event counted with the participation of the major stone fruit farmers of the Roussillon valley. Other new stone fruit varieties by IPS were also presented like Blanto® white-flesh nectarine. It is proving to have a high production potential, attractive colour and great taste in the very early segment. Blanto@ also demonstrates a good firmness and aptitudes during post-harvest handling. It has a white-creamy colour flesh, sweet and aromatic, juicy flesh, with low acidity.
Rubyngo® Rubissia (cov) the “red star” for the mid-season
Within the same ripening-time segment as the Orangered®Barth, IPS proposes the red-skinned apricot Rubyngo®Rubissia (cov). The fruit is brightly coloured, round, has a fine texture, a tender and juicy flesh, and an aromatic flavour. This variety is self-compatible and has mid-season blooming. It is also Sharka-resistant, according to CTIFL protocol 2017-2019. The variety’s production potential has been confirmed in all production areas, with 2A the dominant calibre.
The volume of the EU’s 2020 apricot crop is set to drop by 37% as a result of heavy weather damage, including insufficient chilling hours during the winter, frosts and hail. The European Assembly of Fruit and Vegetable Producing Regions (AREFLH) forecast a crop of 401,883 tons, which is 28% lower than the average of recent years. The report said: “To find another campaign with a similar level of production, you have to go back to 2003 and 1998 with 390,000 tons and 365,000 tons respectively.”
The EU’s leading producer, Italy, expects a huge 56% drop in its crop volume to 136,101 tons. In the country’s worst-affected region, Emilia Romagna, the volume is predicted to fall by as much as 90%. Spain’s apricot harvest is projected to be down 15% to 93,740 tons, while French production is set to fall 29% to 93,542 tons, and Greek output is likely to be down 13% to 78,500 tons, despite the increase in planted area.
The situation is compounded by disruptions to harvesting and labour logistics due to the current pandemic. The quality of the crop is expected to be good, with brix levels projected to rise in the coming weeks.
This bad news comes on the back of a 2019 apricot campaign which saw weak demand and poor prices in northern Europe.
Many new varieties are being trialled at Cot International’s experimental orchards in Murcia and Saint Gilles. Among them are very early and very late apricot varieties that are already available and have excellent organoleptic qualities and proven agronomic suitability. Cot International is also working on an expansion of its range of Japanese-American plums. Those available are a garnet (dark red) skin with yellow flesh plum (registered as Grenadine) and a red skin with red flesh plum.