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Italy experiences freak cherry harvest

Phenomenon seen as sign of climate change

17 May, 14:53
Italy experiences freak cherry harvest (ANSA) - Rome, May 17 - For the first time in living memory, cherries are maturing at the same time up and down the Italian peninsula, a phenomenon some observers see as a further consequence of climate change.

Italy usually enjoys a two-month cherry season with the harvest gradually moving from the south to the north to traditionally end on June 24, the Feast of St John.

This year, however, it's already harvest time throughout Italy with the season now expected to last only a month.

According to the gastronomic-environmental group Slow Food, the reason for this is that for the past two months or so temperatures highs in Italy have been consistently, over 50% of the time, greater in northern Italy than in the south.

The good news is that the quality of this year's harvest is very good throughout the country and prices have already plunged below last year's highs.

Earlier this month, cherries in Italy were mostly from Spain and cost as much as 15 to 20 euros a kilo, depending on their quality.

Today, the flood of domestic fruit reaching the market have pushed prices down by 50% or more. Cherries are selling for between four and five euros in Verona in the north as in Bari in the south, while those from the premium area of Vignola in Emilia Romagna are going for five or six euros and Italy's prize cherries from Pecetto, near Turin, are fetching in the neighborhood of 10 euros a kilo.

Cherry prices generally bottom out at the start of June but this year they are not expected to drop much further, since they are already rock-bottom.

Prices are expected to pick up in less than a month's time when this freak harvest will be over and the only domestic fruit available will be from the colder norther mountain areas.

What remains to be seen now is the behavior this year of the 'giuanin', the worm which invades mature cherries, making them impossible to eat. The name is Piedmont dialect for John and is in reference to the saint.