Frost believed to have decimated crops

While damage is still being assessed, reports from around the country indicate fruit trees, grapes and even some early field crops have been badly damaged by temperatures that dropped to as low as -6 degrees Celsius on Thursday and Friday.

Boštjan Kozole, the head of the chamber of agri-food firms at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) and director of fruit producer Evrosad, estimated the damage on Monday at EUR 50-60m. He said upwards of 90% of the fruit crop had been damaged.

The figure is in line with estimates that the frost was even worse than last year, when the final damage was assessed at EUR 44m.

Fruit trees have been hit the worst since the frost followed an unseasonably warm period that led to early blooming, but crops such as nuts and even early potatoes will also be affected.

Beekeepers said today honey production could be a third lower than normal since the frost destroyed acacia tree blooms, a crucial early food source for bees.

The preliminary figures will become clear in the coming days as appraisers complete damage estimates, the Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry said today.

The frost came almost exactly a year after a frost that had been believed to be a once-in-a-century occurrence.

The GZS has already proposed that the state co-finance sprinkler systems in orchards that form thin ice on trees as a protective layer against sub-zero temperatures.

Such systems cost EUR 8,000,10,000 per hectare, but Kozole said the majority of the money could be secured from EU funds.

He said the Agriculture Ministry was supportive of the plan and would try to implement it as soon as possible, including by simplifying the paperwork required for irrigation.

He also made a renewed appeal to put in place a favourable system of crop insurance.

The state subsidises insurance premiums but the vast majority of farmers, in particular smallholders, still refuse to get insurance due to the price.