Three consecutive days of spring frost have inflicted heavy losses, as in 2021, in orchards in the Southwest. The damage will be partly compensated, the State having announced, Tuesday, April 5, the release of emergency aid.
From Tarn-et-Garonne, “one of the most affected territories”Prime Minister Jean Castex promised “an emergency aid fund for an amount of 20 million euros” and the activation of “National Agricultural Disaster Fund”. “We will also reactivate the exceptional coverage of their social security contributions”assured the head of government after visiting an 80% damaged farm in Cazes-Mondenard.
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The Garonne valley, the Dordogne, certain regions of the East, the north of the Aquitaine region are particularly affected, said Jean Castex, who was accompanied by the Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie.
The frost affected less than half of the territory, according to Jérôme Lecou, forecaster at Météo-France, while 90% of France was affected by frosts the previous night, disturbing, in particular, the arborists.
For the President of the Tarn-et-Garonne Chamber of Agriculture (82), Alain Iches, “these are good measures, but what is missing is cash, immediately”, he reacted. He believes that the aid may not arrive until the end of the year. Some are just receiving the aid corresponding to the damage in the spring of 2021, he said.
“70% of the harvest compromised”
The damage in Tarn-et-Garonne, in stone fruit plantations (plum, peach), is “definitely worse than last year”. “We will be at around 80% of losses linked to frost”estimates the president of the chamber of agriculture, stressing that these figures are still to be refined.
The Agen prune sector is undergoing “a new blow”with damage “widespread throughout the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) area” who “seem to be comparable, if not greater than last year”according to a press release from the National Prune Interprofessional Office. “While it is still too early to accurately assess the losses, it is estimated that nearly 70% of the harvest is already compromised”according to the sector, recalling that in 2021 the marketing had been able to be maintained “due to the stocks making it possible to compensate, in part, for the loss of harvest”.
In 2022, “the disruption of supply is almost certain” and it’s “the entire upstream to downstream sector which is once again seriously affected by an episode which ‘should only happen once every thirty years'”but tends to recur more often due to climate change.
“200 liters of diesel every night”
The president of the Lot-et-Garonne Chamber of Agriculture, Serge Bousquet-Cassagne, is even more pessimistic: last year, “We had lost 70% of the harvest, this year, we will be at 80-90%” for plums and prunes.
According to him, the kiwis, whose buds were protected by a water sprinkler system when the frost arrived, were also affected, but suffered less damage. Nevertheless, “The cost of irrigation is staggering with the current price of energy which has increased by 60%. Me, I’m for 200 liters of diesel every night “testified Jean-Marc Poigt, who chairs Kiwi de l’Adour (400 Label Rouge producers).
In Alsace, in his plantation of fruit trees in Traenheim, Timothée Rothgerber estimates that, if the episodes of frost after mild months of February and March are repeated, they could not “not continue like this economically”.
In the Bordeaux vineyard, the president of the Bordeaux wine interprofessional council Bernard Farges, “fears an impact of the level of 2021”while assuming that “the less advanced vines were spared”.
Last year, after an exceptional episode of frost in April, the harvests of apricots, cherries and pears were halved compared to the average of the previous five years, according to the statistical service of the Ministry of Agriculture. Wine production had also fallen to a “historically low level” : – 19% over one year and – 14% compared to the average of the last five years.