The title of this post sounds pessimistic but it is not. It is realistic. We are experiencing what is, without a doubt, the worst clementine season in our history in terms of yield. It seems, however, that we are not the only ones affected. Farmers with more experience have told us they cannot remember the last time there was such a poor harvest.
Trees have between 60% and 70% less harvest than the average normal season. To put it in numbers: when we hand-pick a mature clementine tree in a normal year, we usually fill 3 large box (equivalent to 22 kg of clementines). This year, we are barely filling one box per tree. There are also trees that have literally, no fruit.
This season confirms what my uncle Manolo taught me:
“For every decade you spend cultivating your fields, you have to expect that two years will be very good, 5 normal, 2 bad and 1 very bad and you never know when the latter will happen, but it will always end up happening”.
Why is there so little harvest?
One thing you always know when cultivating clementines is that one year the trees carry a lot of fruit and the next year they “rest”. It is true that last year’s harvest was very generous, but this is not the only reason. I have participated in several meetings with farmers over the last few weeks and this is the first time in 10 years I hear many of them use the term “climate change”.
According to AEMET (The State Meteorological Agency in Spanish), the month of March 2019 was the month with the highest average maximum temperatures of this century so it has been warmer than usual during central hours of the day. This led to an abrupt shift from the cold winter to the heat of spring. If there is a gradual change in temperature, the trees prepare to sprout but if the heat comes abruptly, the trees are not prepared to blossom and are out of schedule.
When we walked among the clementine trees in spring we began to fear the worst because we could hardly see any flowering. The bees gave us a second warning because they produced practically no orange blossom honey. Without orange blossom, there is no nectar and without nectar, there is no honey. And naturally, without flowers, there is no fruit.