October’s record dry weather means farmers face higher irrigation costs and less income as a higher supply of crops on the market, resulting from warmer temperatures, pushes prices down.
With only 0.2mm of rain measured so far in October, this month has been the driest October on record for the past 101 years. The driest so far was in October 1998 when 10mm of rain was reported, the Meteorological Office said.
Apart from the lack of water, local farmers must also battle insects that persist due to warmer weather.
The presence of these pests and fungi further impacts the quality of the crops, said Malcolm Borg, coordinator of farmers’ lobby group Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi.
Over and above the climate-generated challenges, he said, local farms faced the “perennial issue” brought about by imported fruit and vegetables.
This October has also been one of the warmest on record, according to the Met Office. The highest temperature, so far, was registered on October 18 at 31.7°C.
It increases expenses related to irrigation, which would generally not be done due to precipitation
The mean maximum temperature for this October currently stands at 28.3°C, which is higher than the 1991-2020 climatic norm of 25°C.
“Warm weather at this time of year will impact farmers in two ways. It increases expenses related to irrigation, which would generally not be done due to precipitation. And the warm weather makes crops grow faster, hence, there is generally an over-supply of crops on the market, pushing prices for farmers downwards,” Borg said, adding that examples included cauliflower, cabbages and aubergines.
Borg said he hoped for rain and cooler weather soon since, at this time of year, crops that rely only on rainwater, such as wheat, are sown.
“Cold weather is needed for fruit trees to enter dormancy, which is essential for them to produce fruit in summer,” he said.
Farmer Cane Vella, from Biome Munch, an organic farm in Burmarrad, said that farmers who grow organic products also faced added challenges brought about by the persistent insect colonies. Organic farms do not use chemical pesticides.
“Some insects that are usually gone by now are still around. For example, the cabbage moth is still laying eggs… Cold-season crops are struggling because of the warm weather. For example, celery needs colder weather to grow upright but the weather is too warm…. I also planted thousands of broad beans but they got sick,” he said.