Deadly floods in northern Italy will ravage fruit production in what is normally one of the country’s most bountiful agricultural regions, farm lobby Coldiretti said on Monday.
Floods killed 14 people last week in Emilia-Romagna as torrential rain caused more than 20 rivers to burst their banks, sending water cascading through towns and submerging thousands of acres of particularly fertile farmland.
Coldiretti said the region was Italy’s largest producer of pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums, and the second largest producer of cherries and kiwi. In all, it accounted for a third of Italy’s total fruit harvest.
“We are on our knees,” Sergio Tardani, a representative for Coldiretti in the region, told Reuters. He estimated that the damage would total some 1.5 billion euros ($1.65 billion).
A Coldiretti spokesperson said the floodwater could rot the roots of almost 15 million fruit trees, killing them.
The flood also destroyed at least 400 million kg (400,000 tonnes) of wheat, Coldiretti said. Thousands of animals have also died in the area, which is normally home to around 250,000 cattle, pigs, sheep and goats.
In all, some 5,000 farms were impacted by the storms.
Tardani predicted it would take years for farmers to recover from the disaster, adding that it was still difficult to provide help in some areas, as water and landslides were making it hard to get around.
A cabinet meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to approve a first package of emergency measures for the region.
Italian media said the government would initially announce some 100 million euros ($110 million) in spending and tax breaks for Emilia-Romagna. A government spokesperson declined to comment.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has said Italy might also seek cash from the European Union’s Solidarity Fund for natural disasters.
Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida said on Monday it was too early to estimate the total cost of the damage to the farming sector, but said the government would host a meeting in the coming days with producers to discuss the crisis.