Hail wrecks maize, vines, olives in north Italy
Planetark.org, Aug. 6,2002
ROME - A violent weekend hailstorm, the worst in recent memory, ruined maize, vine, fruit and olive crops across a large chunk of northeastern Italy causing losses estimated in tens of millions of euros, farmers said on Monday.
The hailstorm early on Sunday devastated a vast area of crops stretching from Lake Garda across Lombardy and Veneto to Friuli Venezia Giulia, doing severe damage to maize and vines shortly before the harvest.
"This is a year to forget - we aren't going to produce anything," said wine-grower Sandro Boscaini.
The storm trashed the renowned Valpolicella wine area of Veneto and felled olive trees and vine groves near Lake Garda.
Peach, pear, apple, kiwi and olive crops were also wrecked. "I saw horrific damage to the structure of plants. Vines were the worst hit," Lorenzo Bazzana of Coldiretti, Italy's biggest farm group, told Reuters after touring areas hit by the hailstorm, which he said was the worst in Italy in recent years.
Hailstorms are common in Italy at this time of year, but rarely so fierce and over such a large area, he said.
"Some farms could go bust," Bazzana said.
"We are assessing the damage now. It will run into the tens of millions of euros. We may have to press the government to open its calamity fund," he added, referring to a state coffer activated after major natural disasters. Some maize plants were so badly damaged they cannot even be used for animal feed, Bazzana said.
Lombardy, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia are the leading maize growing regions of Italy. Italy is the EU's second largest maize producer after France.
Farmers said it was still too soon to gauge the impact of the hailstorm on maize production this year. Harvesting is due to start later this month in central regions. Confagricoltura, which represents big agricultural producers, said damage to vines was so severe that some production could be disrupted for years.
It urged farmers to move quickly to rescue as many plants as possible ahead of the late summer harvest.
Maize, rice and sunflower crops east of Vicenza suffered heavy damage from the hailstorm, Coldiretti said. "The Treviso-Venice-Padua triangle was tortured," it said. Some 100 mm of rain fell in areas of Pordenone and Udine in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Coldiretti added. Parts of the city of Udine were flooded.
Intense hail ruined maize, vine and olive crops in the Milan, Lecco and Brescia provinces of Lombardy.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE