As unusually high temperatures mean everything is ripening at once, French strawberry growers are leaving large quantities of fruit to rot in the fields. They simply do not have the capacity to harvest it all.
Even in late April, growers witnessed how high temperatures in southeastern and southwestern France accelerated strawberry production. Since then, southwestern France has seen 40 days straight of above-average daily temperatures – more than 10 to 15 degrees hotter than usual – which means strawberries are ripening twice as fast as usual.
They are ripening faster than they can be picked. Usually strawberries are harvested once a week. This year, to get all the ripe fruit, pickers would have to come through every two days. Pickers are seasonal laborers, many from abroad, and there are not enough of them to keep up. Plus, supermarkets refuse overripe strawberries. They require solid fruit that can hold up to transport and keep for a few days, which means they must be picked before they are completely ripe.
As a result, ripe fruit, which can get damaged in transport, are left to rot in the fields.