Heat Wave Kills 'Just' 20,000 Chickens

Farmers report damage to 10,000 dunams of apple orchards.

About 20,000 chickens have died from the latest extreme heat in northern Israel, beyond the hundreds of thousands that died in the last heat wave two weeks ago.

The reason less battery hens died this time around is that the poultry farmers improved the cooling systems in chicken coops, according to Kanat, the Insurance Fund for Natural Risks in Agriculture.

A chicken farmer holding dead fowl on Moshav Safsufa
Yaron Kaminsky

Not only fowl farmers have been affected. People and even fowls may seek relief from the intense heat with air conditioners, but what's a tree to do?

Apple growers reported that 10,000 dunams of orchards were damaged in the northern regions of the Galilee and Golan, where most of the nation's apples are grown. The affected area comprises about 20% of all Israel's apple production.

Because of the intense heat, the red apple varieties - the Jonathan and the Starking - are not developing their usual color, but are staying pink. Other varieties such as the Golden Delicious are also failing to develop their usual hues.

But the worst problem, says Haim Hod, an apple farmer from the Metulla area, is that the fruit is not ripening evenly. The interior of the apple is ripening first while the external part, the skin and the layer right beneath it, remain unripe. The uneven maturation means the fruit cannot be picked when "just right" and stored in refrigeration for long periods of time. The apples have to be sold much sooner than planned, which means a glut and bargain prices in the short-term, and a shortage down the line.

The losses to apple farmers may amount to millions of shekels, Hod estimates.