Popular summer fruit such as local plums and peaches are in shorter supply than the norm this year, with Malta’s foremost agricultural expert blaming a bout of unfavourable spring weather.
Malcolm Borg, who heads Mcast’s Centre for Agriculture told Times of Malta that farmers across the island had reported relatively low yields of local summer fruit this year, to their disappointment.
The main cause?
Mr Borg chalked it up to a spell of gusty and rainy weather towards the end of spring that hampered production.
“Trees that produce summer fruit depend heavily on the spring weather. This year we had a windy spring and, in particular, saw some spells of red rain – laden with soil and desert sand – which stripped fruit trees of their blossoming flowers. This hindered pollination and as a result, noticeably impacted the summer fruit production,” he said.
Among the most impacted fruit by this phenomenon, were the small Maltese June pear, known locally as bambinella, and a host of stone fruits such as the cherry plum, peaches and nectarines, which are all being picked and sold now.
Mr Borg reckoned it was still too early to have statistical data on how badly the inclement spring weather had impacted the summer harvest. However, farmers across the countryside had started to complain about the phenomenon.
One such farmer, Alfred Vella, pointed to his Mġarr trees and said he had very little summer fruit to speak of this year.
“As a farmer, you know that some years are good and some are bad. This year we had that bad weather in April and May. Well, it hasn’t been a good year for my plums,” he said.
Farmer Joseph Calleja, meanwhile, walked through his fields in the idyllic Wied l-Isqof in Rabat and counted his lucky stars.
Farming is a mixed bag
While his fruit yield looked lower than normal, his field’s peach trees were still laden with juicy ripe peaches.
He said he had still managed to grow enough peaches to make it worth his while, but others had not been as lucky.
Mr Borg, who is also the founder of farmers’ lobby group, Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi, told Times of Malta it was important to keep in mind that, unlike quick yielding crops like lettuce, fruit trees’ production depended on the weather patterns of an entire year.
“You need to have good rains and cold weather in winter, calm springs and sunny summers. Farmers know that if one of those is off, then it is going to impact their yield,” he said.
Farmers have already had to deal with the damage caused by a freak devastating storm in February which wreaked havoc on farms across the island.
However, the wet winter weather this year, which came after three consecutive dry years, had been beneficial for other crops, such as wheat and some types of olive trees.
“Indeed, farming is a mixed bag,” Mr Borg said.