European stone fruit producers are warning that poor weather and low prices have decimated profits and that many of them face ruin as a result.

Cold winter and spring weather delayed the summer stone fruit season, hitting production of peaches, nectarines and apricots and significantly reducing the average fruit size.

Europe's total stone fruit production is expected to be 4.1 million tonnes this year 5% down on last year. Italy, the main producer, is forecast to be down 2%, Greece down 4%, Spain 9% and France 11% [Europech].

The predictions come on the back of two years of below-cost production returns for growers, and trade association Freshfel Europe called on Brussels to alleviate the crisis.

"The later start of the season will lead to a shorter marketing period and might also lead to an overlapping between early and mid-season varieties," said Paco Borras, vice president of Freshfel's export division. "Lower EU production will not be beneficial as the total sales period will be cut by two or three weeks, while smaller sizes might have an additional downward effect on prices."

Growers have also been hit by the rapid spread of the sharka virus in EU orchards. Sharka, or plum pox virus, is not harmful to humans but causes acidity and deformities in crops.

French trade body Interfel has met retailers, buyers and importers to discuss shoppers paying a premium for added-value French summer fruits.

The next part of its UK promotional campaign will include competitions, recipe cards, sampling and bogofs, with independents and wholesalers targeted.