Europe’s Charon heatwave is causing devastating effects on the continent’s food supply, with cereal crops being the hardest hit. The extreme hot weather has led to a decline of up to 60% in cereal production in southern Europe compared to last year’s output. In this article, we will examine in detail how the heatwave is affecting cereal crops, livestock, and fresh foods.
Cereal Crops Decimated by Heatwave
The Charon anticyclone that has moved into Europe from Africa has prompted serious concerns over the quality and size of harvests this year. The 2023 European cereal harvest is expected to be its lowest since 2007, with a projected output of 256 million tonnes, 9.5% lower than the five-year average of 283 million tonnes, according to European farming organization Copa Cogeca. Harvests in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, where temperatures have regularly exceeded 40°C in July, are expected to be hardest hit by the heatwave. Quality is also likely to be negatively affected due to the extreme weather conditions seen across the continent.
Livestock Sector Facing Shortages
The heatwave is not only affecting cereal production but also the livestock sector, which relies on cereal crops for animal feed. With tighter cereal supply, shortages of animal feed are expected, leading to potential issues in the livestock sector. European crops farmers will face a very difficult situation this year, with not much to sell and their crop at a low price with very high input costs. They also risk not being able to ensure a decent harvest next year, which will be necessary to keep afloat after this year’s dramatic situation, according to a spokeswoman from Copa Cogeca.
Fresh Food Imports Also Affected
The weather is also posing a challenge to importers of fresh foods into the UK, with the border control post at Sevington not offering refrigeration, suggesting that the cold chain could break down for goods using this border facility. According to Mike Parr, managing director at logistics firm PML, while its hub in Kent had refrigeration, the border control post does not currently offer this service, which is so essential during these challenging high temperatures.
Impact on Fruit & Veg Unclear
The impact of the heatwave on fruit and vegetable crops is less clear. While it is expected that tomato crops will be impacted more and irrigation for developing crops will be required, crops are in different development stages. Heavy rainfall at the start of the season has exacerbated the difficult conditions and delayed plantings in northern Italy, which is expected to cause harvest delays. The World Processing Tomato Council left production in the hemisphere largely unchanged from the June forecast of 42.5 million tonnes. However, many market sources now believe tomato volume forecasts for 2023 are unlikely to be reached due to the heatwave, late plantings, and drought earlier in the year, according to Mintec fruit & veg analyst Harry Campbell.
Concerns Over Olive Crop and Olive Oil Supplies
Walter Zanre, CEO of Filippo Berio UK, has a “pessimistic view” about this year’s olive crop and olive oil supplies due to the extreme hot weather and droughts, which could lead to a “repeat of last year’s crop failure.” He said that tomatoes for the processing industry had already been hit by floods, with the northern Italian crop volumes already down by 15% and prone to further losses due to the extreme heat resulting in scorched fruits. The flood damage has already ensured that prices will increase, which will have a knock-on effect in pasta sauces, pizzas, ketchup, and many other products, according to Zanre.
In conclusion, the Charon heatwave is causing devastating effects on Europe’s food supply, with cereal crops being the hardest hit. The livestock sector may face shortages due to the tighter cereal supply, and the importation of fresh foods into the UK is facing challenges due to the lack of refrigeration at the border control post. The impact on fruit and vegetable crops is less clear, but tomato crops are expected to be impacted more. The extreme hot weather and droughts may lead to a repeat of last year’s olive crop failure.