Trebnje/Ajdovščina – The sub-zero temperatures hitting last week could result in EUR 40-50 million in damage caused to fruit and wine growers, Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek said on Monday as he continued visiting the frost-stricken areas. This is on a par with 2016 and 2017, when damage reached some EUR 45 million. He announced state aid measures.
Podgoršek visited Trebnje in the south-east of the country and State Secretary Anton Harej was in the Vipava Valley in the region of Primorska, west.
The minister said it was still too early for the final estimate of the damage, but noted there will be practically no Slovenian fruit this year.
The Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief will be asked to assess the damage across the country, and also include the March frost in Primorska, west.
The minister said the government will help out with state aid, including an emergency bill to possibly lower or write off rent for affected farmers who rent state land.
Pension contributions could also be written off, while just like in 2016 and 2017, compensation for the loss of income will be considered. Ways to buy grapes and fruit from some farmers will also be examined.
Podgoršek agrees that procedures to obtain permits for irrigation and anti-frost systems should be sped up, something to be looked into together with the Environment Ministry.
What is more, a solution should be found to be more ambitious in such investments, he said, announcing his ministry will publish in May a EUR 20 million call for climate change-related investments.
Boštjan Kozole, the head of fruit growers at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), said systemic solutions should be sought to set up sprinkler systems in at least a third of all orchids. His estimate is that last week’s frost could reduce this year’s fruit harvest by over 80%.
State Secretary Harej meanwhile said entire Primorska – from the coast in the south, to the Vipava Valley and further north in Goriška Brda – had been severely affected, with the entire harvest ruined in some of these areas.
Eighty to hundred percent of apricots, peaches and cherries were damaged in entire Primorska, he told the press after he completed the visit in Ajdovščina.
The state will probably write off the entire rent for farmers renting state land in this low-lying area where the frost was severest, he said.
Orchid growers using the Vogršček irrigation system will meanwhile not have to pay this year’s fee as the system is not active because it is being upgraded.
Loans farmers have taken out in recent years could also be rescheduled, the state secretary announced.
“The damage to the crops is considerable, there will be practically no fruit from these orchids this year,” said Branimir Radikon from the Nova Gorica Agriculture and Forestry Service.