Temperatures well above 20 degrees Celsius are being recorded far into the topmost northern regions of Europe. These sunny days are, however, accompanied by a lack of rain and low humidity. There are concerns about drought in several countries in north-west Europe. Further to the south, farmers have no issues with this. In some cases, it is just the opposite. Severe hailstorms have damaged crops in various countries.
The European Union is worried about this year's harvests. This is according to June's JRC MARS Bulletin
. This document contains the harvest forecasts for the season. In general, estimates have been adjusted downward. The map below shows the areas of concern. From these, the division in Europe immediately becomes obvious. The north is dealing with a drought while further to the south there has been too much precipitation.
UK: Warmth hastens soft fruit season
In Kent, UK, a cold spring was quickly followed by a hot summer. This has resulted in an erratic season. Raspberries are doing well at the moment. There are, however, fewer strawberries available. Traditionally, the demand for strawberries increases around the time Wimbledon is being played. Two weeks ago, this sector was struggling with an oversupply. This just goes to show how erratic the season is.
Higher-than-usual temperatures are being recorded on the east coast of Scotland. The outliers here are, however, not as extreme as in the south of the United Kingdom. Temperatures range between 17 and 21 degrees. These peaks in the season are putting pressure on the market; not only in sales but also in the chain. For example, it is affecting the number of pickers, of which there is already a shortage. These anomalies are also proving to be challenging for logistics. The high demand is catching up to these peaks. In Scotland, the season starts in May already. There will be enough soft fruit for another week or two. The low supply from England means there is little pressure on the market. Due to the heat, pickers start work at around 4 in the morning. Harvesting stops at about 11 when temperatures begin to rise. Labour costs are, therefore, high.
Fewer Irish potatoes
Irish consumers have to contend with higher potato prices this year. A cold winter with a lot of snow has been followed by a warm, dry period. The potato farmers organisation, IFA, is concerned about this year's harvest. The potatoes that were planted early were affected by the cold. "And if it reaches 24-25 degrees Celsius, they stop growing", the organisation stated in The Independent
. The sector warns that the drought will cause an increase in fruit and vegetable prices.
Norway: rains delays soft fruit season
The cold weather and heavy rain experienced in early June, limited soft fruit growers in the north of Norway. Blackberries bloomed two weeks later than usual. This is largely due to the rain. This not only delays the plants' growth but also makes it difficult to work on the fields.
The Netherlands: growing onions on 'little islands'
There is a prolonged dry spell in the Netherlands. May was a record month in terms of heat and June was one of the driest since 1901. July has also begun very hot and dry. Since this week, the summer of 2018 has been in the fifth percentile of the driest ever recorded. The KNMI sees 'cautious indications' that dry summers will become more frequent in the future. "We are near the longest day of the year. This means extra long days with lots of sunshine and high temperatures. The dry spell has far more impact now than, for instance, in the dry day in mid-August", says a Dutch trader. He often goes out into the field with growers. He sees, first hand, how dramatically the dry spell is affecting orchards and horticulture in North and Central Europe. "Plants are in survival mode, not growth mode. Farmers are constantly irrigating their crops. A very powerful north-eastern wind, however, quickly evaporates the water. I expect production prices to rise too. Looking at the 14-day weather forecast, the wind direction is not changing."
The dryness in this country is having various consequences. Significant shortages of open field lettuces with sky-prices are being reported on the wholesale markets at the moment. This is also due to the extreme weather conditions during spring, as well as the heat. LTO says the influence of the drought differs between regions and crops. "There is growth stagnation over the whole line. The situation is dire for growers that can, or may, not irrigate", says Esther de Snoo of LTO Nederland. In many areas in the Netherlands, farmers are still dealing well with the lack of rain. However, the longer it continues, the lower the yields will be. This will have an effect on price formations. Retailers and speciality shops expect prices to increase because of the drought. The current weather conditions are good for some growers. Potato and onions farmer, for example, have very little problems with disease. This is thanks to the continued drought. They can also still keep their crops in the ground.
The drought affects the growth of potatoes the most. It is difficult to keep them growing because the heat evaporates the water so quickly. "You see the potato leaves hanging limply in some fields. It is difficult to recover from this", says a trader. The alarming reports of the dry spell are not yet being reflected in the prices. This, despite the usual volumes not being met. "The consumer market does feel somewhat firmer. Doré prices, of which fewer were planted, and Eigenheimer and Biltstar prices are showing an upward trend. The price for Frieslanders is, however, climbing less quickly." In the longer term, digging up the potatoes could be a problem. Doing so mechanically does not work when the soil is dry.
The early potatoes that are currently being harvested in South Limburg have stopped growing. The volumes are also much lower. This will also be the case with the organic variety from Flevoland, where harvesting will being soon. The drought's effect on the storage potatoes has not yet been determined. This is because these plants only grow between August and October.
Cauliflower and lettuce farmers in North Holland and lettuce growers in Limburg have indicated that the effects of the drought have been lessened by means of irrigation. It may be that the apples and pears will be smaller. Berries ripen fast thanks to the heat. They are also being harvested earlier than usual.
Belgian farmers experiencing water shortages
For now, it seems that drought has had no influence on crops in Belgium. That is to say, yields have not been affected. The past few months have been very dry. This is despite the thunderstorms that hit the south of the country at the end of May. Erosion-sensitive orchards have been severely damaged by flooding and mudslides.
People at a Belgian strawberry farm have noticed that the drought is causing water shortages. "It is not yet a serious issue, but we have seen that it is very dry. Our strawberries are cultivated in the substrate. Usually, we use rainwater, supplemented by fertilisers. We also use rainwater to cool down the greenhouse roofs. We always have water available, but I think the drought could become a problem for us", says the grower.
Greenhouse tomatoes have not been affected by the lack of rain. They are, however, having problems with the heat. "The heat is affecting these vegetables. The greenhouses have enough water in reserve to get through dry periods like this. The heat, however, plays a part. The tomatoes' quality is, however, good at the moment. We do not have any issues with this. We have noticed that problems arise with quality toward the end of the season. The scene that is now being set with the hot weather will make for issues with quality", says a tomato farmer.
Germany: time almost up for potato farmers
In large parts of Germany, there is currently talk of a protracted dry spell and relatively high temperatures. For now, this is not causing any major issues. The heat has a positive, rather than negative effect on a large number of products. Yet, an increasing number of producers and traders are voicing their concern about the current climate conditions: in the Lüneburger Heide region in the in the state of Nedersaksen - Germany's main potato supplier - the farmers are realising that their time is almost up. The artificial irrigations systems have been working at full capacity there for weeks now. There is also no talk as yet, tof large-scale problems. However, if the drought continues for ten to 14 days, the consequences will be enormous. Part of the harvest will, undoubtedly, be lost. Unfortunately, not a drop of rain has been predicted for the coming days.
Vegetable and herb products in Noordrijn-Westfalen are currently experiencing the full effect of the dry spell. Various growers have reported that the fields have dried out completely, despite irrigation. This has all got to do with the wind, which is permanently blowing. This prevents the water from being evenly distributed on the ground. There is, therefore, a risk of substantial shortages of spinach, spring onions, and various kinds of herbs. Iglo is Germany's main supplier of frozen vegetables. They are working behind the scenes to find all the possible alternatives to the local supply of fresh products for the processing sector.
Switzerland supplementing crops with imports
In Switzerland, the effects of the dry spell are already somewhat noticeable. This was confirmed by a lettuce producer. Supplemental imports have already been needed to meet the volumes being demanded. Based on the current weather predictions, it is expected that this will become more prevalent in the coming days and weeks. On the other hand, the high temperatures have been beneficial. They have boosted lettuce consumption. The price situation is, therefore, becoming more interesting for traders.
France: enough rain
In France, growers have hardly been affected by the drought. Brittany has recently had to deal with heavy rainstorms, says a spokesperson from a large growers association. The Bordeaux region has also had enough rain. A farmer says, "It rained so much at the beginning of the year, that we could not get onto the fields. This was accompanied by a shortage of sunshine. The weather conditions only improved again a month ago."
Temperatures started climbing quickly about ten days ago. According to the grower, this has a major influence on the French market. "Just about the whole of the French vegetable production sector had bad weather at the beginning of the year. This cause delays throughout the sector. Now, the weather conditions are improving. This means everyone is bringing their product to market at the same time. The consumers are, however, not ready for this. Prices are low." This farmer predicts that the real drought is still to come. "When it gets really hot here, you see temperatures of 40 degrees. The plants really suffer under these conditions. Fortunately, we recently had good rains." Earlier in the week, hail storms hit Charente and Aquitaine, in the south-west of France. They left behind a trail of destruction. Whether crops were damaged, is not yet known. One early estimate tells of an area of 15.000 hectares of beans and corn that was struck.
Italy: hail damage to unprotected crops
Further to the south still, the Val di Non, Braz (Trentino), was hit by a hailstorm on 3 July. In images circulating on the internet, among other things, an apple orchard, with no hail netting, can be seen in the background. It is evident that there will be hail damage in this orchard. The hailstorm was, however, localised. Further down the valley, growers had no problems with hail, although the temperature did fall substantially. There was also a lot of precipitation in the Val di Fassa (Trentino) region. The area is not known for its orchards, but there was substantial damage to the infrastructure there.
Further to the south-east of Europe, about 200 hectares of agricultural land in Turkey was hit by hail. The hail storm moved through the Meric district, near Edime in the north-west of the country. Watermelons, melons, and corn were being grown on a large part of the affected area. It is not yet clear to what extent these crops were damaged.
Romania: heavy rains after drought
The weather conditions are finally becoming more favourable for Romanian vegetable farmers, The season began cold and dry. The recent constant rain has, however, presented them with a new challenge. In some areas, it rained for seven days and nights in a row.
Scientists warn of the danger of diseases resulting from these humid conditions. This is expected to have the largest impact on tomatoes, raspberries, and blueberries, In some cases, the entire melon harvest has been influenced. The damage on the market is clear to see. Here, torn tomatoes and melons can be found. A greenhouse farmer in the south-east of the country tells that the damage has not been that bad there. There are also issues with quality, but, in general, the harvests were good.