While most of the pickles consumed in France come from India and Eastern Europe, the Reitzel group and 24 farmers want to reverse the trend by relocating the production in France, mainly in the departments of Loir-et-Cher and Sarthe
In 2016 already, the company started growing pickles near its two factories of Montrichard and Connerré, with 112,000 jars the first year. In 2021, Reitzel hopes to reach 1.1 million.
“Pickle crops are part of the agricultural productions that have been lost in France with the industrialization of agriculture,” explains Yuna Chiffoleau, director of research in sociology at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Inrae). “Just like the mustard seed or some cereal varieties like buckwheat, these sectors are difficult to intensify or develop at the top of the range. So these crops were relocated to countries where labor is much cheaper.”
Another reason why the pickles come from India is because the weather conditions of the region allow for 3 harvests a year compared to only 1 in France.
“Within a 20-km radius, we now have 8 producers that have reintroduced the pickle crop in the fields. The fruit can double in volume within just a day. However, in France, we are used to eating very thin pickles, so we must go to the field very often to harvest the pickles while they are still small,” explains Sylvain Tessier, one of the partner producers.
Pickle crops are also a way for the farmers to increase their revenue. “In previous years, we’ve managed to gather 10,000 euros [11.875 USD] per ha, a good ratio especially since the season is short. Having pickle crops also facilitates crop rotation and they are not demanding in water, an asset in this context of climate change.”