Frost: French arboricultural sector in despair

The cold spell of the past week caused considerable damage on most of the territory. The freezing temperatures of the beginning of this month are catastrophic for French arboriculturists. In many regions of France, the thermometer went below 0°C, down to -5°C or even -7°C in the south.

According to Serge Bousquet-Cassagne, president of the Chamber of Agriculture of Lot-et-Garonne: “The agricultural sector of the department has lost 50% of its revenue. There had not been such a catastrophic situation related to frost since 1991.” The producers of the department tried everything to save their production: burning bales of straw, spraying and even using helicopters. Serge Bousquet-Cassagne claims that 70 to 80% of the apple production of the department has been destroyed by the frost. “We will ask for an acknowledgment of this agricultural disaster by the government, and we will seek a reduction of legal constraints and review the reimbursement of loans with the banks.”

The same is true in the Rhône valley. The arboriculturists were not able to fight against the frost last Wednesday night. According to Daniel Betton, who has 55 hectares of apricot orchards in Mercurol-Veaunes (Drôme), “at least 80% of the production is affected. Temperatures went below 0°C around midnight, and down to -4°C around 7am. The breeze prevented the heat from spreading properly.”

According to Bruno Darnaud, secretary in charge of arboriculture at the Chamber of Agriculture of the Drôme:“The vegetation was at least 15 days ahead compared to previous years, so we fear the consequences because the apricots were already at the small fruit stage. The producers struggled all night. Those who irrigated to protect had the opposite effect; it was such a dry cold that they ended up with 4 centimeters of frost on some trees.

Photo: AFP/Jeff Pachoud

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