Frosts reduce almond production in Spain

by Daphne and Christine Schmidt, Clipper-Spain, Borriol

The Spanish winter of 2018/19 was rather “summery”. Due to the high temperatures, the dry weather and the lack of precipitation in the months of January, February and March, the almond blossoms in the production areas were early and good. There were no special occurrences in the further fruit development, at least until the end of March. In some areas, such as the province of Castellón, almonds of good calibre can already be seen due to the rainfall in autumn.

The following spring, on the other hand, resembled rather a winter with cold and precipitation in practically all of Spain. The drastic drop in temperature brought snow in the higher areas and the dreaded frosts in the interior. The latter were not very welcome, especially from the fruit and almond growers, who saw part of their harvest lost.

Largest damage in Albacete

According to information received in early April by technicians of Asaja Castilla La Mancha, the first estimates show that the provinces of Albacete, Cuenca and the county of Los Yébenes (Toledo) were most affected by the frosts at the end of March. The damage caused – by both early and late varieties – could lead to a 70% drop in harvests compared to the previous year. The province of Albacete has the largest losses. In some areas all production was lost.

Other production areas that also recorded night frosts, albeit to a lesser extent, are the interior of Murcia, the country of Valencia and Aragón. According to the insurance company Agroseguro, more than 12,200 ha of arable land have been reported as damaged, of which 6,000 ha are planted with almonds (preliminary data). On the positive side there are heavy precipitations after a particularly dry winter. That is good news. The trees are clean again, and the Spanish water reserves have also recovered somewhat, although they were at a very low level in mid-April with only 57% of the dam capacity. It  also works to the positive side that the frosts in the affected Murcian areas slowed down the biological development of the almond pest “Avispilla del almendro” (Eurytoma amygdali) or even destroyed entire populatipons.

The insurer further explained that the situation of this year’s spring frosts is similar to last year’s, when there were also hailstorms. This was also the case in the last few weeks, but it mainly affected other commodities. There is no information available about hail damage to almonds.

Furthermore, the Spanish almond sector reports that prices have recovered slightly since the beginning of the year. This has raised the mood among producers again somewhat after the catastrophic prices last autumn. The positive development at Marcona and Bio-Comuna deserves special mention. The prices for almond kernels in the Lonja de Reus in the calendar weeks 14/19 were as follows (Euro/kg): Comuna 4.6; Largueta 4.7; Marcona 5.75 and Comuna Bio 6.3 and in the Lonja de Murcia: Comuna 4.81; Desmayo Largueta 5.13 and Marcona 6.01. d.s./c.s. in the calendar weeks 14/19.

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