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France declares “agricultural disaster” as country deals with aftermaths of frosts 

France declares “agricultural disaster” as country deals with aftermaths of frosts 
Photo by rfi.fr // After visiting a farm in Ardèche, in south-eastern France, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced plans to remove caps on compensation for agricultural disasters.

The unseasonal frosts that struck France last week are expected to have the most severe impact on the country’s agriculture in recent memory. Crops in large parts of the country face costly damage, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the  Rhône Valley and  Provence. Grapes, kiwifruit, apricots, and apples are among the crops most affected. The bitter frost struck suddenly after a bout  of warm  weather, which  worsened the  damage.

French agriculture minister Julien Denormandi said: “This is probably the  greatest agricultural catastrophe of the  beginning of the  21st  century. Several hundreds of thousands of hectares have  been impacted.

Daniel  Sauvaitre, president of the  National Apple Pear Association (ANPP), told AFP: “Peaches, nectarines and  apricots will not be easy  to find on the  shelves this  year. The challenge is to know if there are  enough flowers left that are  still green to get  a harvest. And it’s only mid-April,  there could  still be frost  until  early  May.”

 

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Frosts wreak havoc on Lleida’s stone fruit

Frosts wreak havoc on Lleida’s stone fruit
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.

 

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Heavy rains severely damage Indian grape crops

Heavy rains severely damage Indian grape crops
Photo: Mersel

The unseasonal rains that hit India last week have left the country’s grape farmers facing severe losses. The damage could reduce exports to the EU and UK by as much as 25% over the coming weeks between Weeks 12 and Week 16.

The unseasonal rains are considered serious cause for concern as they are viewed as a result of global climate change. This has led to a rising clamour in the sector to shift towards more sustainable methods of living and working that safeguard the environment.

 

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Cold snap threatened Spain’s supplies and pushes up prices

Cold snap threatened Spain’s supplies and pushes up prices
Photo: Coexphal

The fruit and vegetable sector in Spain was struck by record minimum temperatures last week, with rain and snow falling incessantly throughout the week, which will compromise harvests. Production has fallen considerably and is affecting all products. Prices are high as there is no capacity to supply all the demand that exists, not even to meet most of the commercial agreements that the marketing companies had already closed.

The intense cold keeps the growth of plants and their fruits paralysed while also threatening to cause damage that could be irreparable at this point in the season. Farmers do not have enough volumes either in the field or in their warehouses to supply all orders.

According to the analysis carried out by Juan Carlos Pérez Mesa, professor of the department of economics and business at the University of Almería, “in percentage terms, the products that show the greatest increase are: aubergine, courgette and cucumber. These products have practically doubled in price in a week. The price of tomato grows almost 60%. The pepper is the product with the lowest increase (17%).”

The weekly monitoring data for tomato and cucumber available to COEXPHAL reflect that the rise in prices is due to a very significant drop in production. Pérez Mesa points out that in the case of tomatoes “the decrease during the first week of the year is 27% and the same figure will remain during the next week.” Similar is the behavior of cucumbers, whose volume could fall by 30% in week 2 of this year. In the case of courgette and aubergine, a similar behaviour is expected for the next few days.

The professor from the University of Almería recalls that “although the price increase is always good news, it is not so much when they exceed the threshold at which the customer decides to stop buying.” In addition, the significant drop in the number of kilos also compromises the profitability of farmers at a crucial time for the campaign. Everything indicates that this complicated situation will be extended in time as bad weather is forecast to continue.

Cold damage manifests in various ways, depending on the microclimate of the different production areas. In parts of the province furthest from the coast, such as Campohermoso and Berja, there have been nights with frost, reaching -4ºC at the end of December. There have been losses due to freezing in many farms, affecting 20% ​​of the plants. In some cases, with relatively young plants, the entire greenhouse has been lost.” In addition, he points out that “in Berja, the frosts have brought forward the end of pepper cultivation in many places”.

Jan van der Blom warns that “the cold causes the growth points to weaken, making it difficult to flower or set during a long season. Given this, many producers who had planned to carry out a long tomato campaign, are forced to cut the plants early to carry out a spring crop.”

 

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Zespri wins damages for unlawful propagation of fruit in China

Zespri wins damages for unlawful propagation of fruit in China

 

Kiwifruit leader Zespri has been awarded almost NZ$15 million in damages after a ruling that its SunGold variety was unlawfully taken to China and distributed to other growers. The company sue  took out a civil action in 2018 against kiwifruit grower Haoyu Gao, his wife Xia Xue and their company Smiling Face Limited after discovering that two of its protected varieties were being propagated by Gao and his associates in China. The February 20 ruling found that Gao had fraudulently offered to sell Zespri’s varieties and the right to licence them to parties in China. This was in breach of his contractual obligation to notify Zespri of any infringement he was aware of.

In a statement, Dave Courtney, Zespri’s chief grower and alliances officer said, “This is an important decision for New Zealand’s kiwifruit growers, as well as for other New Zealand horticultural businesses. If they continue to invest in research and development to create value for New Zealand they will have protections against those who seek to undermine that.”

While the damages awarded were almost $15 million against Gao and Smiling Face, and $10m against Xue, the judge ruled that the maximum to be paid was $15m.

In the 2018-2019 campaign, Zespri sold 167.2 million trays of fruit around the world, with China accounting for about NZ$650m of the firm’s $2.94 billion sales last year. 

 

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Spanish agriculture counts cost of Storm Gloria

Spanish agriculture counts cost of Storm Gloria, Credit: Emilio Morenatti, AccuWeather
© Emilio Morenatti, AccuWeather

 

Spanish producers are counting the cost of a deadly weather front that struck last week. Storm Gloria is reported to have wreaked the worst damage on citrus and vegetable production along the country’s eastern coast between Barcelona and Murcia, with losses estimated to run to €46 million.

Winds reaching over 110km per hour left a lot of fruit on the ground. Valencian agricultural association Ava-Asaja reported many farms still being under water days later, raising fears about the prospects for the second half of the campaign if conditions persist. Some flooded fields are expected to see whole crops wiped out. In recently planted potato and onions fields, farmers will be forced to replant. In terms of vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes and lettuce are among the worst affected crops. 

One benefit of the heavy rains is that the region’s reservoirs have been replenished, easing water restrictions. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said in a statement on Wednesday that all production losses from Gloria would be covered by the National Agrarian Insurance Plan. This includes losses to next year’s harvest resulting from damage to farms.

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Cold snap hits vegetable, citrus and avocado crops of central Chile

cold chile

Early June frosts may have serious consequences for the crops of Chile’s central zone, particularly, citrus, which are in full harvest, and avocados, whose harvest begins in August. The damage appears to have affected buds and fruits and has even struck the northern Coquimbo area’s potatoes, squash, cucumbers and beans. Table grapes and stone fruits are expected to escape unharmed.

The cold weather did not bring any rains, and with the Maipo Valley’s reserves perilously low, next year’s harvest is already in jeopardy. Nevertheless, weather experts are forecasting some long overdue rain over the coming weeks.