In early spring, farmers were praying for rain to irrigate the harvest. Their requests were heard, but heavy rains did not stop throughout May and they continue to this day. Farmers are now eager to have longer spells of sunshine to dry out the soaked land. The most disadvantaged are fruit growers who started selling in the markets the first strawberries and cherries. The strong rains brought plenty of water, which made the fruits very large, but tasteless, and some of them just rotted.
Many producers were faced with no other option but to use their unsellable strawberries and cherries for making the Bulgarian type of brandy (rakia), which means that this year we will have much of this drink with a wonderful aroma of strawberry or cherry, but it is significantly cheaper than fresh fruit and the losses to producers are large. Unfortunately, they can not rely on compensation from the state as they are entitled to them only if natural disasters completely destroy their crops, which was not the case. With very few exceptions.
Because of the great frost in winter and the reduced crops, farmers are hoping for higher purchase prices, which would partly offset the losses. Instead, because of the perishability of the fruit increased by the frequent rainfalls, producers were forced to sell it to resellers very cheap. In Bulgaria’s so-called “Paradise of cherries", the region of Kyustendil, farmers complain that the pound of their product cost less than a cup of coffee. The disappointment among producers of cherries is high. This crop had just begun to revive in the country after Bulgaria joined the EU and received subsidies for the agricultural sector. Since 2008, both the areas occupied by cherry orchards and the harvest them have almost doubled. In 2011, 30 thousand tons of cherries were gathered.
The adverse effects of the weather have hit another aromatic early fruit – the apricot. In the main area for growing this crop, Silistra in North-eastern Bulgaria on the Danube, the strong winter frosts destroyed about 80% of the early varieties of the apricot. In late apricots, the winter has also caused damage to a quarter of the crops. If the rains continue, the ripening apricots will have the same fate of cherries and strawberries – they will be more tasteless, will break down and decay because of the high water content in them.
Apart from orchards, the freezing winters and the excessive rains in the spring will affect also the vineyards, says Hristo Tsvetanov, chairman of the Association of Agricultural Producers in Bulgaria. Unlike last year, when the vine harvest was the best since the beginning of the century, 2012 seems far from exemplary.
"Because of the rains, for two weeks we are unable to enter the fields and spray against pests," says Mr. Tsvetanov. This applies to all agricultural crops. Machines can not move in the soil soaked by rain and no fertilization or spraying against diseases can be done. The schedule for these agricultural operations has been delayed for several weeks now, which may reflect badly on almost all crops.
In these weather complications, the site of early local fruits and vegetables on the Bulgarian market will quickly be filled by imports from regions more favored by the weather conditions this spring. This is already seen in the first strawberries and cherries. If the rains linger on, the same could happen with the delicious Bulgarian tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, etc. But let's hope that the June sun will soon dispel all the clouds and the lost time will be made up quickly.
English Rossitsa Petcova