Cherry producers under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Cereza del Jerte, Caceres Province, laments the loss of almost the entire cherry season in the Jerte Valley due to heavy rains in recent days. According to calculations by the Regulatory Council of the PDO, 80% of the harvest is damaged and considered lost.
So far, only 20% of the harvest had been collected, and a majority of the cherries still on the trees are cracked, rotten, or stained due to excessive moisture. According to the initial estimates by the president of the PDO Cereza del Jerte, José Antonio Tierno, the storm has spoiled “between 18 and 20 million kilograms” of cherries in Cáceres. This means losses of up to 70 million euros. This is a preliminary figure because the full extent of the damage is not yet known. In this regard, the outlook is not promising as more rain is expected in the region in the coming days.
In the Jerte Valley, over a hundred varieties of cherries are cultivated by a cooperative of producers. Out of all these varieties, only five native ones have the Protected Designation of Origin seal “Cereza del Jerte” (PDO “Cereza del Jerte”). These are the Cherries of Jerte and Picotas of Jerte.
The PDO expressed solidarity with the affected farmers. “The loss of the harvest is a catastrophe for the Jerte Valley because the entire families in the valley depend, on some level, on cherry cultivation,” says Tierno. “It should be noted that 70% to 80% of the region’s economy depends on these fruits. Therefore, this situation means having to live with only 20% of the income,” emphasizes the president.
The president of the PDO explains that if a small part of the harvest can be saved, “the goal will be to export as much product as possible because that’s where the highest value is obtained.” However, they are aware that it “poses a greater risk because the fruit would be in delicate conditions and may not withstand the process well.”
The campaign already started unusually this year because the flowering was delayed by 10 to 12 days due to a lack of rain. Although high temperatures subsequently favoured the development of the fruits, until now, a good harvest was expected both in terms of volume and product quality.
Picota del Jerte les damaged
Picota del Jerte cherries are also affected. This campaign was just beginning its harvesting process. So far, the incidence of cracks in this variety is limited to 10% to 15% of the harvest, but according to Tierno, “if it continues to rain as planned, it will end up cracking as well.” Picota cherries are also very prone to developing stains, which reduces their value in the market. The Picota harvest accounts for 20% to 25% of the total cherry season.
The lack of insurance exacerbates the situation. Although the percentage had slightly increased this year, only between 5% and 7% of cherry orchards have insurance to cope with such disasters.
The PDO Cereza del Jerte recommends having policies to deal with disasters. President José Antonio Tierno argues that ideally, “the entire harvests should be insured because the livelihood of many families is exposed.” “It’s like people having their money and belongings on the street, waiting to see what might happen,” he concludes.
The PDO Cereza del Jerte supports the request for the declaration of a disaster area following the heavy rains that have ruined the harvest because it believes it is “clearly a catastrophe.” However, they demand that it be accompanied by “specific measures so that it doesn’t remain just an empty promise”.