A destructive combination of extreme rainfall and waves of heat and cold has caused massive damage to many crops across Greece this summer.
Blaming climate change, farmers say weather patterns in recent years have been unprecedented. Farmer-members of the cooperative in the Western Macedonia region of northern Greece primarily grow peaches and cherries. Meanwhile in Attica, grapevines and other crops were severely affected by a heat wave that hit earlier in the summer.
“How can the trees handle temperatures going from 40 degrees Celsius down to 14C within just two days? We have air conditioning – they don’t,” the president of the Imathia Farmers’ Cooperative, Christos Giannakakis said.
According to the Pomology Institute of Naoussa, more than 90 millimeters of rain fell on the plains of Imathia within just 48 hours on July 16 and 17. That’s compared to an average monthly rainfall for July of just 33 millimeters. “The heavy rains caused a lot of fruit to fall from trees prematurely and shrivel up,” added Giannakakis.
Much of this year’s cherry crop in northern Greece had already suffered damage from heavy rains in late May and early June, just before the harvest period. Up till then, all signs had been pointing to a good year.
Moreover, across Attica, 40 to 50 percent of the Savatiano grape crop failed due to a heat wave in late June that sent temperatures as high as 45C. “The damage was widespread and we’re unsure whether it’s even worth harvesting what’s left when the time comes in early September,” says Stamatis Georgakis, president of the Koropi wine cooperative.
Similar damage has also hit raisin producers this year. “Over the last two years we’ve seen an increase in demand for raisins. It’s a shame to lose customers now because of this,” says Constantinos Katselis, president of the Agricultural Cooperative of Messinia, in the Peloponnese.
Firefighters battled more than 90 forest fires across Greece last Monday, an outbreak fed by dry winds and hot weather that saw blazes burning near Athens, in the Peloponnese, and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia.
Although Greece is 97th in the world in terms of overall area, it has the 11th largest coastline. As a National Geographic report noted, Greece’ coastline is vast, “equivalent to roughly one-third of the Earth’s circumference.” The geography of Greece is diverse, from mountainous regions to low-lying beachfront areas. Greece’s location would make it particularly susceptible to the disastrous effects of climate change.