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Agriculture battered by hail in addition to drought

Stormy rains are still expected today between the south of Aquitaine and Lorraine, even Alsace, via the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. Since Monday, storms dropping balls of hail the size of ping-pong or even tennis balls have caused enormous damage to homes, cars and agricultural land. These storms follow others that occurred at the beginning of June, before the heat wave days of the week preceding the second round of the presidential election. On Tuesday, Marc Fesneau, Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, visited disaster-stricken farmers in Thenay, in the Loir-et-Cher, where he has just been re-elected deputy.

Following this visit, the ministry published a press release yesterday indicating that the Minister “is launching a flash mission led by experts from the General Council for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas (CGAAER)”. The press release specifies that “this flash mission will take place as close as possible to the actors of our agriculture, in connection with the insurers, for a period of two weeks. It will provide the Minister with an initial documented estimate of the extent of hail episodes. If necessary, it will propose practical elements to better adapt current and future tools to the needs of farmers in the face of these intense climatic phenomena. The mission will be composed of three members of the CGAAER and will submit its report in two weeks,” the statement said. While waiting to receive it, Marc Fesneau tries to reassure the farmers with these words: “With this mission we will precisely assess the damage in a very short time. This will also allow us to identify adaptation levers in the short and medium term to be even more resilient. It is about the work of our farmers and our food sovereignty.”

No production seems spared

In the meantime, we already know that the damage is considerable in a large number of departments. Yesterday, the Chamber of Agriculture of the Gironde, published a press release in which one could read: “Corn, vines, field vegetables, no production seems spared in the places affected by the hail which fell down in part Médoc, Blayais and northern Libourne. In addition to crops, buildings, equipment and facilities suffered heavy damage, with broken greenhouses, collapsed roofs”.

In the vineyards, some plots will not be harvested this year, while others will have to sort the grapes a lot to harvest only the clusters of fairly good quality at harvest time. Henri Négrier, winemaker in Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne in Gironde, indicates that “90% of the harvest is on the ground” on his farm, the equivalent of 70,000 bottles of wine. Pierre Braquessac, a winemaker not insured against damage, saw 70% of his plots hit by hail. In addition to the vineyards of Gironde, Dordogne, Charente departments whose vines produce grapes for cognac, those of the Center region and Burgundy were also hit by these hailstorms.

Scoops of ice cream 5 centimeters in diameter in places

In different regions of France, more than 1,500 hailstorms have been recorded, localized most of the time, but whose balls of ice always reached a diameter greater than 2 centimeters and even more than 5 centimeters in 10% of cases. In several departments, hectares of sunflower and corn were chopped up by hail. Elsewhere, greenhouses used to produce vegetables have 25 to 30% of broken tiles, testifies a market gardener from the Hautes Pyrénées. On a cattle farm in Vanxains, in the Dordogne, the storm seriously damaged the hundred hectares of cereals intended for cattle feed, while the roofs of the buildings were seriously damaged by hail.

We will see in two weeks what will be the conclusions of the mission entrusted to the three members of the CGAAER by the Minister of Agriculture. But it is already clear that in June 2022 we have worrying signs of the consequences of climate change on French territory. And at the same time, while the war in Ukraine allows speculators to enrich themselves by betting on a grain shortage, the situation in our country shows that promoting food sovereignty means breaking with the sole law of supply and of demand, as it operates today at European and global level.