The second hottest summer on record. At the end of August, Météo France drew up a worrying assessment of the summer period. France has been hit by a record drought, heat waves successive and many mega-fires. DExtreme climatic conditions that have undermined agricultural production.
The outlook for some crops, such as corn and potatoes, is poor. The government has already announced aid for producers in difficulty. But the consequences of this summer devastating for crops could also affect consumers. Could products be missing in the fall? What impact on prices? Franceinfo takes stock.
What is the production status? Potato farmers anticipate a harvest “catastrophic”. The National Union of Potato Growers (UNPT) expects declining returns “at least 20% compared to the average of the last twenty years”. That is the equivalent of 1.5 million tonnes lost this year. Usually, “when there is a heat wave, the potato stops its cycle, then resumes its growth” when the temperatures drop, explains Geoffroy d’Evry, farmer in the Oise and president of the UNPT. But the persistent drought and the succession of heatwaves in the summer permanently blocked the development of the tubers. “In the memory of a potato maker from the north of France, we have never experienced such a situation”says the farmer.
What are the consequences for the consumer ? The lack of goods will first be felt in the French fries and crisps industry, for which potatoes are more often grown “dry”, that is to say without a watering system other than rain. For potatoes sold on the stalls, the risk of a shortage seems to have been ruled out, but the shelves could still be less stocked in the coming months. The drop in yield “will certainly be slightly less marked” on these products, because part of this production is placed under irrigation, and was therefore less directly affected by the drought.
“Today, it would be inconceivable to see promotions on potatoes, because there will not be an overabundance of them.”Geoffroy d’Evry, President of the UNPT
With less goods, tariffs are also likely to increase. In any case, this is the wish of the sector. “This price revaluation must take place, but it can be limited”assures Geoffroy d’Evry. “There is no reason to see a doubling of the price of potatoes in stores”but “everyone must do their part, and it is also up to traders and distributors to review their margins”pleads the farmer.
… and vegetables
What is the production status? For the time being, the Légumes de France federation estimates the losses between 25% and 35% of production. “With rising temperatures, drought, and therefore water restrictions, plants have developed water stress, which has compressed production. As they lack watering, they prioritize their survival and give less, and of lesser quality”summarizes for his part the president of the Interprofession of fruits and vegetables, Laurent Grandin, with the site actu.fr.
Some sowings have also been postponed to prevent the seeds from burning under the effect of the heat. “We therefore risk having delays in the production of turnips, carrots or radishes”, lists Jacques Rouchaussé, president of Légumes de France. On the other hand, the forecasts are more favorable for fruit. “The apples are going to be a little smaller, but the production has been good overall”illustrates for example Françoise Roch, president of the National Federation of Fruit Producers.
What are the consequences for the consumer? Here again, even if the risk of a shortage of vegetables is ruled out, “we will have less goods, that’s for sure”, judge Jacques Rouchaussé. With also potential repercussions on prices. For now, those of fresh vegetables have already increased by 4.9% over one year, according to INSEE. A figure, however, lower than the inflation of all food products over the same period (+6.8%). To absorb the rise in energy and packaging costs in the sector and the anticipated drop in production, market gardeners are pleading for an increase in tariffs. “VSThis price increase must be reasonable, of the order of a few cents”according to the market gardener.
Tensions over dairy products
What is the production status? “Dairy cows produce less when temperatures rise” because they do not support high heat, explains Jean-Marc Chaumet, director of the economics department of the National Interprofessional Center for Dairy Economics (Cniel). In addition, the meadows in which the ruminants feed (cows, sheep, goats) are largely parched. Since the beginning of the year, the production of grass has thus decreased by almost a third compared to previous years, estimates the statistical department of the Ministry of Agriculture (Agreste).
However, animal feed, used to make up for the lack of grass, has experienced extraordinary inflation since the start of the war in Ukraine, linked to the rise in the price of agricultural raw materials: +31% in one year for pig feed , +25% for poultry feed and +26% for dairy cow feed, according to the Agreste (PDF file). Not to mention the corn harvest – most of which ends up as fodder – could be reduced by 13% due to the drought, predicts the ministry.
Result: some breeders have already started on the fodder reserved for the winter, others reduce the portions, which affects the quantity of meat or milk produced, or else send part of their animals to the slaughterhouse to feed those who remain. “Normally, at this time, we should be at 51,000 animals slaughtered each week, when we are closer to 60,000”explains Patrick Bénézit, vice-president of the National Bovine Federation (FNB).
What are the consequences for the consumer ? There will be plenty of meat in the coming months as more animals are slaughtered. Nevertheless, if too many breeders are forced to resort to the slaughter surplus, the shortage will be felt in the coming years, due to a lack of renewal of the herds. On the price side, ruminant breeders, unable to compensate for the new losses linked to the drought, are asking the State to review the access and compensation thresholds of the agricultural calamity regime in order to be able to benefit from “2 to 4 billion euros”. Without what the price jump of meat – 8% over one year, according to INSEE – will continue.
“The cost of the drought will have to be passed on one way or another.”Patrick Bénézit, vice-president of the National Bovine Federation
On the milk side, the decline in production will be felt more quickly, assures Jean-Marc Chaumet. “We will be this fall on relatively limited volumes, with tensions on dairy products (butter, cheese, yoghurts, etc.)”he warns, nevertheless relativizing the term of “shortage”. After a 6% increase over the last 12 months, milk prices should continue to increase. NOTNormally set annually in February between the dairy industry and distributors, the price was already revised upwards in July. And breeders are now calling for a third round of negotiations before the end of the year. “To make a living from our profession, we need milk sold at 99 cents per liter on the shelves, compared to around 78 cents for private labels today”, justifies Stéphane Joandel, administrator of the National Federation of Milk Producers in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. The breeders’ appeal has already been heard by the Système U brand, which announced at the end of August that the liter of milk would now be sold for nearly one euro.
More expensive local honey
What is the production status? “When the vegetation suffers from drought for months, it blooms little or not at all to protect itself, and the few existing flowers produce little nectar and last less long”, explains Henri Clément, spokesperson for the National Union of French Beekeeping. Now, without nectar, there is no honey. Due to the drought, this year’s harvest could be cut short “A half”according to him. But that of next year could also be affected, because if the queen feeds less, for lack of available pollen, she lays less, and the renewal of the colony does not take place.
What are the consequences for the consumer ? There will be plenty of jars of honey on the shelves. Some 45,000 tons of honey are consumed each year in France, well beyond the 10,000 to 33,000 tons (depending on the year) produced in the country. Foreign honey, particularly from Asia, will therefore replace the missing French honey. “On the other hand, there will be less quality and local”, warns Henri Clément. Honey produced in France will also cost a little more, because beekeepers have increased their prices to meet their growing production costs, particularly related to the soaring price of packaging and fuel.