Bitter spring frosts decimate apple crop in Crimea

By Thomson Reuters May 31, 2024 | 3:16 AM

KURSKOE, Crimea (Reuters) – At the foot of soaring white cliffs on the Crimean Peninsula lies an orchard whose apple trees should be growing heavy with fruit this time of year.

But nearly all of the blossom on the 165-hectare farm was killed off by an unusual cocktail of harsh weather: an early, warm spring followed by bitter frosts.

The weather has hit grains and crops such as rapeseed, sunflower, sugar beet and corn. The frosts have also affected berries and orchards such as the one in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 and which Kyiv wants back.

Vladimir Slukhai, chief agronomist for the Kurskoe orchard, strode down the rows of apple trees and stopped by one to touch its branches.

“The ovaries are in poor shape”, he said, referring to the part of the apple surrounding its seeds.

Slukhai said springtime frosts often happened when the trees were in bloom, but this year they came later, when the ovaries were already forming, killing them off.

“It never happened in my lifetime that the frost hit when ovaries were forming,” he said.

Director of gardening Georgy Danishevsky said the orchard had lost 95% of its harvest – or perhaps even more.

“We planned to harvest some 3,500 or 4,000 tons of apples,” Danishevsky said. “But according to experts’ estimates only 100 or 200 tons of apples can be expected.”

The revenue for this year’s harvest will be significantly less than the usual 130 million to 150 million roubles ($1.45 million to $1.65 million), he said.

($1 = 89.8250 roubles)

(Reporting by Reuters in Kurskoe; Writing by Lucy Papachristou in London; Editing by Alison Williams)