Severe storms destroy Portuguese wine crops

Severe storms this week have destroyed more than 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of the port wine crop in 17 parishes in northern Portugal, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Severe storms this week have destroyed more than 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of the port wine crop in 17 parishes in northern Portugal, the Agriculture Ministry said.

The ministry said late yesterday that 1,718 hectares (4,245 acres) had been lost in the parishes, which have a total production area of 6,335 hectares (15,650 acres).

The figures were still preliminary and a final assessment would only be made after poor weather conditions – forecast until Tuesday – had passed, Agriculture Minister Jaime Silva said.

Hailstones the size of quail eggs fell on crops on Wednesday in the councils of Alijo, Sao Joao da Pesqueira, Tabuaco and Sabrosa, four of the most important port-producing regions.

Silva, who travelled to the region to assess damages, said farmers needed to insure their crops, Lusa news agency reported. “The state spends €20m annually, just to support them, and cannot, at the first sign of calamity, say it will solve everything,” he was quoted as saying.

Hail also fell in June last year, causing damage to hundreds of hectares. The government made €1m available to farmers to cover the losses.

Port wine is produced in northern Portugal only, in three regions located in the Douro valley, expanding over 250,000 hectares (nearly 620,000 acres) of land. Vines cover 15.4% of all the land in the region.

Portugal sold 93.6 million litres (24.7 million gallons) of port wine in 2005, according to the Port and Douro Wines Institute, or PDWI. Sales last year were worth €405m.

Heavy rain hit the country from Tuesday, causing floods and damage from north to the south of the country and injuring 16 in the northern town of Famalicao.

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