Europe's fruit farmers worry as unseasonal frosts threaten harvests

FILE - Farmer Sergiu Calmac stands in his apple orchard in Harbovat, Moldova, Aug. 7, 2014
FILE - Farmer Sergiu Calmac stands in his apple orchard in Harbovat, Moldova, Aug. 7, 2014 Copyright Vitalie Plotnic/AP
Copyright Vitalie Plotnic/AP
By Daniel Bellamy
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As Europe endures an unusual cold snap, many fruit farmers are concerned for their summer harvests.


Europe's spring has so far proven far colder than predicted, and the implications for the continent's food supply are starting to become a real worry.

Since mid-April the Balkan states have seen temperatures plunge from near-record highs to unseasonal lows, bringing snow and ice to much of the region.

"It was very warm, we even had temperatures of up to 30 one day, and then all of a sudden it dropped to minus. The fruits and all of this are all destroyed, it's over, if there are any apples left it will be good," said Franjo Crnković, a fruit farmer in Croatia.

And in Poland, many strawberry farms have been hit by frosts of -8C.

But in the Netherlands, many farmers have been ingeniously spraying the buds of their fruit trees with water. The resulting frozen crust actually offers the buds some protection, because heat is released when the ice melts. This keeps the buds a little warmer, and can prevent them from dying.

“Ice already formed on the branches, and also on the fruit. You see the flower and underneath it is the fruit, which is encased in ice," said fruit farmer Joost van Diepen.

"That layer of ice provides certain insulation and latent heat. This heat keeps the temperature of the fruit just above zero."

Meanwhile, at higher altitudes, heavy snowfalls have challenged drivers, many of whom have switched back to winter tyres.

Forecasters predict the extreme conditions will run into next week.

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