The cold spell that has hit France, along with the violent frost episodes, has caused considerable damage, from the north to the Rhône valley and the southwest. Many regions are affected. A real disaster for producers who had not experienced such temperatures (down to -6°C in some areas) for nearly three decades. The professionals are asking the government for emergency measures and help to cope with the situation.
For its part, the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA) “is calling for a quick response from the public authorities” who must “consider now the compensation measures that will help everyone make it through this difficult year.”
“When temperatures are this extreme, there is nothing anyone can do. Nature imposes itself on us,” explains Christiane Lambert, president of FNSEA, interviewed by French radio Franceinfo.
The Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie, declared on Public Sénat that “it will take a few days to measure the extent of the damage precisely.” On Franceinfo, the minister indicated that “this situation is quite exceptional and particularly difficult.” The losses are significant but it is still too early to determine the financial extent of the damage.
Dramatic losses for fruit trees
Daniel Sauvaitre, president of the National Apple Pear Association (ANPP) and secretary general of Interfel explained to AFP that “peaches, nectarines and apricots will not be easy to find on the shelves this year. The challenge is to know if there are enough flowers left that are still green to get a harvest. And it’s only mid-April, there could still be frost until early May.”
On his blog, Daniel Sauvaitre writes that “three nights of frost successively affected almost all apple and pear producing regions in France. [...] For the orchards that rarely experience frost in the spring, or only with a low impact, the wind towers, candles and other Frostbusters showed their limits. A great number of flowers or young fruit froze. This year’s abundant flowering still allows hope for a harvest. It will depend on the varieties, the stage of the vegetation and the conditions in which pollination will take place. [...] But as always, we will have to wait until mid-May to finally be able to make the first counts and evaluate the harvest to come. [...] After the protection against hail and against drought, protection against frost can no longer be optional but another imperative for the agronomic and economic success of an orchard.”
In some regions, professionals have lost almost their entire crop. For the arboriculturists whose productions were more advanced (flowering phase), it is a bitter realization. “We’ve had a winter spell with temperatures that went down to -5 and -6°C in the orchards and vineyards. Nothing to do with spring frosts and at this stage of maturity, the orchards and vineyards did not hold up despite the preventive measures including wind towers, candles and water spraying system. The report is not good,” explains Françoise Roch, arboriculturist in the Tarn-et-Garonne department and president of the national federation of fruit producers.
In Occitania for example, 70 to 100% of the crops have been destroyed by the frost. In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the observations are just as bad. “We’ve had temperatures of -5 to -10°C depending on the areas, and despite the protective measures, not all crops could be saved. We have lost between 60% and 100% of the upcoming harvest in the orchards for example. In just the one municipality of La Motte-du-Caire, 200 hectares of apple orchards and nearly 10,000 tons of apples have been lost,” according to Laurent Depieds, apple producer in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and regional secretary of FNSEA.
— Christiane Lambert (@ChLambert_FNSEA) April 9th, 2021
Activating the agricultural disaster assistance program
Julien Denormandie announced the activation of the agricultural disaster assistance program as of Thursday. “This aid is reserved for farmers “who can prove a physical loss rate of 30% of their annual production.” The amount released has not been communicated yet.