Are we going to run out of cheese or potatoes this winter ? The question may make you smile, but is not so crazy.
Since the beginning of the summer, France has suffered repeated heat waves and persistent drought. Climatic conditions that have a direct impact on agricultural production. Reporterre draws up a (non-exhaustive) list of foods threatened by lack of water.
In the Cantal, the Salers is one of the first collateral victims of the drought. This farmhouse cheese is made from raw, whole cow’s milk. To respect the framework of its protected designation of origin (PDO), dairy cows should be fed exclusively on grass. Except that it is no longer possible: the pastures of the department are dry. Everything fried.
Since August 12, the production of Salers has therefore been stopped, for an indefinite period. “ [Si les vaches étaient nourries] with more hay, the dough would be whiter, we would have less aromas. Our product still has a certain notoriety with consumers, we don’t want to break it »reluctantly justified Laurent Lours, head of thePDOat the microphone of France Bleu Pays d’Auvergne.
Faced with this forced stop, it will be more complicated to find Salers this year in stores. Mechanically, prices will increase, to try to compensate for the financial loss of breeders. “ For 1,000 liters of milk processed into cantal [une autre variété de fromage]we earn 200 euros less than with the Salers »explains Laurent Lours to France 3 Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
- The Salers cows will not produce the cheese of the same name this year. © Pierre-Olivier Chaput / Reporterre
The production of Salers is threatened because of its very specific specifications, but many cheeses are affected by the drought. “ It is probable [que les vaches] are fed less grass than in previous years »recognized Thomas Dantin, representative of the three protected geographical indications (PGI) from Savoie (Emmental, Tomme and Raclette), in a press release.
In addition, the stock of dry fodder, dedicated to animal feed this winter, is already lower than in previous years. “ We will have to sell animals because we will not be able to feed them all. This is what makes us fear a sharp drop in milk production in the fall »warned Thierry Roquefeuil, president of the National Federation of Milk Producers, in the newspaper Release.
“ In the Hérault, the summer harvests were totally catastrophic, on chestnut and heather honey »laments Paul Galzin, beekeeper and administrator of Unaf (National Union of French beekeeping).
To make honey, bees must collect nectar from flowers. Except that when flowering plants lack water, flowering is less abundant. Worse, in the event of intense water stress, plants close their nectariferous glands. “ They may be producing flowers, but there’s no nectar inside. », summarizes Paul Galzin. Result: the bees have nothing to forage, they collect little (or no) nectar, and do not make honey. “ On the summer harvests, by making the ratio quantity of honey per colony, I harvested between four and five times less than last year »continues the beekeeper.
The situations vary depending on the location of the hives, but overall, in France, “ all beekeepers suffer from drought », he says. Honey stocks (generally from abroad) are important, a shortage is not to be feared. But in the coming months, expect price increases at checkout – especially for local and artisanal honeys.
In the Basque Country, the harvest started at the beginning of August. Much earlier than expected. Because of the scorching sun and the high temperatures, the Espelette peppers ripened faster than usual. Consequence: here they are smaller, stained, ready to be thrown away by the producers.
“ It hasn’t rained for weeks. There is no more water available in the first ten or fifteen centimeters of the ground »lamented Panpi Olaizola, president of the union PDO Espelette pepper, at the microphone of France Bleu Pays basque. Faced with this situation, producers of “ red gold » obtained a derogation to exceptionally irrigate their fields. But “ no one is really well equipped » among the profession, notes Panpi Olaizola.
The harvest will be spread out until October. Until then, producers are impatiently awaiting the rain. If we can already fear financial losses for farmers, and a rise in prices for consumers, the results of the season can only really be drawn up at this time.
- When the flowers are too thirsty to produce nectar, the bees don’t have much to eat. © Pierre-Olivier Chaput / Reporterre
Even the north of France has not escaped the drought this year. There, the potato producers are helpless. “ [À cause] strong heat, the growth stopped. The potatoes have stopped growing », testifies for France 2 Guillaume Traisnel, farmer in Linselles (North), in front of his plants grilled by the sun. A worrying situation, when we know that the Hauts-de-France region alone produces 60 % of the country’s potatoes.
“ What is certain is that there will not be enough potatoes to satisfy all the demand »declared Geoffroy d’Evry, president of the National Union of Potato Producers, to the newspaper Release. In addition to the food sector, potatoes are also used in the fields of stationery and packaging. A situation which, again, raises fears of a rise in prices.
The list of drought-affected crops could grow even longer. End of July, Reporterre had gone to meet farmers from Drôme: their zucchini, peppers and aubergines had burned in the sun. In the Aisne, the lack of water has hampered the production of sugar beets. In short, few fields are spared.