Contrary to expectations, Czech fruit growers achieved very good results last year. Despite the extremely dry and hot summer, the overall fruit harvest increased by 24 percent year-on-year to 188,462 tonnes, which is the best result since 2006. The head of the fruit grower’s union, Martin Ludvík, announced the results this week.
According to Mr Ludvík, one of the main reasons behind last year’s results was a favourable climate in spring with no frosts and rare occurrence of hail. On the other hand, the hot weather and lack of rain affected the quality of some of the fruit, especially apples and pears. The harvest of apples, which are traditionally the main fruit commodity grown in the Czech Republic, last year increased by 19 percent to over 155,000 tonnes and was the highest in the past seven years.
Because of the drought, however, most of the fruit was smaller and more than half of the apple harvest, around 60 percent, had to be processed into juice. This will of course affect profits, since apples intended for further processing are sold for a lower price. Under normal circumstances, about 60 percent of the country’s apples are sold for direct consumption.
The harvest of pears recorded the largest year-on-year increase in 2015, by 166 percent, to a record 10,000 tonnes. There was also considerable increase of plum production, to over 8400 tonnes. According to Martin Ludvík, both plum and pear production have been positively affected by the planting of new trees.
On the other hand, the production of fruit used mostly for processing, such as sour cherries, gooseberry and currants has been going down for several years now.
According to the country’s Fruit Grower’s Union, production of fruit in the Czech Republic has been unprofitable over the long term. The situation has been affected by Russia’s ban on EU foods introduced in 2014 in retaliation for Western sanctions, which have pushed down the prices of fruit.
The longer -term yields of fruit have been affected by poor results from 2010 and 2012. While in 2006, the overall harvest of fruit amounted to over 190,000 tonnes, in 2011 it dropped to just a little over 100,000 tonnes.
This year, the area of orchards under cultivation has decreased by 11 percent to around 15,500 hectares, which is the biggest drop in the past 20 years.
According to Mr Ludvík, the situation could be improved if the country’s fruit growers received more support from the EU’s Rural Development Programme.