Agriculture also paid the cost in terms of human lives: the flood that has hit the Emilia Romagna and Marche regions caused the death of producer Sauro Manuzzi from Cesena, who was well-known for his stall selling aromatic herbs at the wholesale market.
Strawberry crops have been underwater since last Monday, and it is almost impossible to harvest them.
Photo by Paola (Gea) Guardigni
Many territories are flooded in Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna, and Bologna. "Agricultural businesses and rural infrastructures have been severely damaged as thousands of hectares of kiwi, plum, pear, and apple orchards, as well as cereal and vegetable crops, nurseries, machinery, and infrastructures are all underwater," reports Coldiretti.
During a meeting, Ministers Nordio, Lollobrigida, Calderone, and Deputy Ministers Bignami and Leo discussed suspending tax and contributions obligations and legal proceedings to help the Emilia Romagna region.
"Considering the exceptional situation, we believe a Special Law Decree is necessary as well as the allocation of suitable resources to help businesses deal with the damage," reports Coldiretti President Ettore Prandini, who adds that "ordinary measures must be activated as soon as possible, but they are not enough to save or guarantee the continuity of agricultural chains in these territories."
"A whole area has been brought down to its knees, and the primary sector has been seriously compromised. These are the worst weather conditions we have had since the postwar period. It will be easier to assess the damage when the water retreats, but the situation seems already dire," explains inter-provincial Confagricoltura President Carlo Carli.
The high-profit vegetable fields between Cesena e San Mauro Pascoli have been destroyed, and strawberry crops in Cesena are experiencing a lot of problems. Then there are the countless flooded orchards: the heavy rain has left silt in the soil, so now roots risk asphyxiating."
"The 2023 harvest is compromised, but there could be problems in the next few years as well. Transport also experienced problems due to the bad weather and disrupted roads: some stretches of the A14 have been closed, as well as the Forlì and Cesena tollgates. This, in turn, is causing problems for the shipment of produce and has led to other losses. Once safety is restored, an extensive plan is needed to support the economy."
"This dramatic flood once again stresses the urgent need for a serious and well-structured national hydrogeological plan to deal with soil consumption and neglect of the territory," adds Copagri.
"It is essential to intervene on an economic front to suspend payments and requirements for the flooded areas, also assessing the possibility of increasing compensation percentages for affected areas based on what envisaged by the Agricat fund."
The rain of the past few days in Emilia Romagna hit not only the part already affected by the flood of May 3rd (Ravenna) but also a wider area.
The Forlì-Cesena province was hit by over 100 mm of rain in just a few hours, causing floods in many cities, including Cesena.
The fields owned by producer Marco Lisi, whose company is located in Gambettola (Forlì-Cesena), were already partly flooded on May 16th.
Photo by Marco Lisi
"The rain fell for many hours, entirely or partly flooding a lot of crops despite the fact that I always maintained the draining network clear."
Lisi borders with a very important local stream - Rigossa. He did notice there was lots of seepage caused by wild animal burrows. "We need to choose: either we let nutrias do what they want, or we try and save houses, land, and people. My fields flooded due to seepage. It could have happened in other areas such as Lamone a Faenza, were many km and lots of houses could have been affected.
Strawberry producers also registered problems, as entire fields were flooded, and it will be difficult to commercialize the fruits covered by the water, soil, and sand. As for stone fruit, immediate cracking and Monilia will lead to losses.
The Cesena market published the following note: "Due to the emergency situation, we would like to report that the Cesena market will be open already in the evening for unloading operations. We confide in everyone's caution and common sense in reaching the facility, and we will try to guarantee the minimum essential service to all operators."
Forlì-Cesena and Rimini Confagricoltura technicians are working with members to assess the repercussions of the bad weather. The floods and landslides are affecting agriculture as well. "Lots of crops have been flooded, and damage will be consistent: entire crops are at risk, as well as vineyards and olive groves. Many crops are at a crucial stage of their growth in mid-May, so what happened is a serious problem. Then there is the damage to the infrastructure caused by the landslides and floods," commented Carlo Carli, president of Confagricoltura Forlì-Cesena and Rimini.
"The emergency situation involves the entire territory. Our organization is working alongside members and, as soon as the damage will be assessed, it is ready to assist them with applications for compensation and to find the best ways to get help," intervened Luca Gasparini, director of Confagricoltura Forlì-Cesena and Rimini.
"The floods may cause root asphyxiation and lead to plant death. The water will eventually get back to the riverbeds, but the land is saturated, and many plants will experience irreversible damage. Vegetable crops are also at risk," stressed Matteo Brunelli, president of the Confagricoltura Cesena section.
The Montone River broke its banks at some points, and various parts are underwater, especially towards Faenza. "Hilly areas such as Modigliana, Dovadola, and Predappio that experienced landslides risk remaining isolated and having to deal with new landslides. Vineyards and orchards are underwater in the San Lorenzo di Noceto area as well, but we hope that the water will drain soon to avoid increasingly negative consequences. Floods of this type may, in fact, cause diseases to develop over the next few weeks. The situation is dire," adds Alberto Mazzoni, president of the Confagricoltura Forlì section.
"Rimini and Riccione were severely hit, and the situation is no better in the countryside as many fields were flooded. We are worried for our vegetable crops, vineyards, and olive groves, which are under a lot of stress," reports Nicola Pelliccioni, president of the Confagricoltura Rimini section.
CSO Italy is in constant contact with its members
"We're in constant contact with our members in the hardest hit areas in Bologna, Forlì, Cesena, Ravenna, and Rimini. These are also largely at our working area's heart," says Paolo Bruni, president of the Italian horticultural companies service organization, CSO Italy. "The picture that's emerging is undoubtedly dramatic. The Emilia-Romagna region's President, Stefano Bonaccini, correctly compares it to an earthquake's effects."
Paolo Bruni, CSO Italy CEO
"We've been talking about climate change for a long time, and, sadly, this is awful proof of that. Within a few days, the climate switched from extreme drought to flooding. In some areas, 300 mm of water fell, as much as in all of 2022," Paolo explains.
"I fear this unprecedented situation could, unfortunately, become the norm. I don't remember such an extreme phenomenon ever occurring on the Adriatic side of our peninsula. If anything similar happened, it was rather on the Tyrrhenian side, between Liguria and Tuscany, or in Sicily and Sardinia."
"Once this crisis passes, projects will have to be started on hydraulic works to reduce the water's force during river flooding. That should be done by temporarily diverting some of the flood wave. In Emilia-Romagna, such works have so far been only partially completed. The plans are there, but some still lie in government officials' desk drawers. First, we must rescue people, then rebuild homes and workplaces. But, after that, we must devise measures to prevent this from happening again," Paolo concludes.