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FOOD & DRINK

French farmers warn of rising prices for fruit and vegetables after drought

French farmers have warned of rising food prices due to the summer's heatwave, drought and water restrictions.

French farmers warn of rising prices for fruit and vegetables after drought
Fruit and vegetable prices are set to rise in France. Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP

Peaches, kiwis, apples, pears, carrots, cucumber, potatoes, turnips, leeks, tomatoes and lettuces are all set to rise dramatically in price after France’s worst drought in 60 years lead to severely reduced harvests.

“We have losses of between 30 and 35 percent on average,” said Jacques Rouchaussé, the president of the vegetable producers union, to the Parisien newspaper.

“Faced with a long drought, such as the one we are experiencing, we have little means to act.”

After a bad summer last year, farmers were expecting a good summer season since the winter frost finally spared the crops. But the lack of rainfall and water restrictions in some regions of France prevent growers from keeping fruit trees and root vegetables undamaged.

“Our products suffer from water stress and come out much smaller,” Françoise Rose, president of the fruit producers union, told the Parisien.

Although growers in the south know how to deal with very dry episodes, the real difficulties are in the regions used to having rain regularly, said Laurent Grandin, president of Interfel, the union for both fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Our sector is not in a catastrophic state as a whole, some areas are suffering more than others,” he added.

“We have to return to a seasonality, we cannot have tomatoes all year round. The consumer must also show frugality,” said Jacques Rouchaussé.

The consumer association Familles Rurales has already recorded an 11 percent increase over one year in fruit and vegetable prices. With smaller quantities and lower quality products, this trend is set to continue in September, including for processed products, such as tomato sauce or tinned soup.

Climate adaptation

With more violent episodes of frost or drought, producers need to adapt to a changing climate.

In the short term, producers are talking about the use of wastewater. They want the establishment of “retention basins”, made up in winter with rainwater in particular and usable in the event of drought in summer.

Another mitigating option to limit the impact of sweltering heat would be to invest in equipment to protect orchards and vegetable gardens such as so-called cold shelters.

“We must all act so that our professions and our cultures remain, said Jacques Rouchaussé. “Otherwise, we will grow tomatoes in the north and the south will only be able to grow rice!”

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FOOD & DRINK

France to see ‘exceptional’ year for Champagne despite record heat

Champagnes from 2022 are expected to be "exceptional" despite record heat and drought in France over the summer, according to producers of the prestigious sparkling wine.

France to see 'exceptional' year for Champagne despite record heat

Grape harvesting took place in August — earlier than usual.

Both the quality and quantity this year are comparable to vintage years 2002 and 1982, the head of the champagne producers’ union SGV told a press conference on Thursday.

The Champagne region suffered from water shortages like the rest of France but rain “arrived at the right moment during the cycle”, Laurent Panigai told reporters.

This summer was France’s second hottest on record, with average temperatures 2.3C above the norm.

This, coupled with water shortages, caused major problems for livestock farmers.

But the abundant sunshine looks set to deliver a windfall for many wine makers.

Producers in the Bourgogne region are also suggesting this year’s harvest could be comparable in quality to 1959, one of the best years of the last century.

READ MORE: ‘The price of glory’ – Meet the Champagne industry lawyers charged with protecting the brand name

Champagne producers were authorised to pick up to 12,000 kilogrammes of grapes per hectare, the highest level for 15 years.

This is set to enable them to replenish their stocks after a disappointing year in 2021.

The hot weather helped reduce diseases such as mildew. The fungal growth wreaked havoc on the 2021 French wine crop, which was also hit by late frosts.

“Many of the greatest years come at the same time as large (production) volumes,” Panigai said.

Drinkers can expect to sample 2022’s champagne vintage in 2024, as most bottles are kept in cellars for between 15 months and three years.

The champagne industry was hit badly by the Covid-19 pandemic, which shut restaurants across the world and led to most social events being cancelled.

But it rebounded in 2021, posting record sales of €5.5 billion.

France is the world’s second largest wine producer, after Italy.

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