Milk, olive oil, wine: will the drought lead to shortages in France?

The drought is historic for the year 2022 until it requires restrictions on access to water. The situation has a significant impact on the agricultural world.

The fourth heat wave that hit France in early August 2022 means that the drought continues. This results in a maximum level of alert in around sixty departments with restrictions linked to the use of water. Drought also comes with a direct impact on crops due to water stress (the problematic lack of water).

Historic drought and heat wave shake French and European agriculture: all production is in a critical situation and farmers are paying a high price for the cumulative effects of a historically dry winter, a historically warm spring and a historically scorching “, warns FNSEA on its website in a post dated 8 August.

If the entire agricultural world is therefore affected, certain foods are of particular concern. The drop in yields could be the source of shortages within a few months. This applies especially to milk.

Milk

In autumn, the price of the milk carton may increase due to its scarcity. We are talking about the drought, which reduces milk production considerably. A dry month of May is combined with 4 heat waves in a row. The causal relationship is not very complicated: to produce milk, cows need food and are well.

But with the drought, the cows are exposed to water stress and their food is more limited. For example, grasses are rarer, the plains are “prepared”, at a time of year when it is the main diet of the dairy cows in the meadows.

As of July 20, year-to-date cumulative permanent grassland production is 21% below normal. The persistent drought as well as the heat waves affect the growth of the grass. The situation worsened in July over the majority of the territory, with only the central regions experiencing developments close to normal “, noted at the end of July Agreste, a statistical monitoring body for agriculture.

As a result, farmers in these types of situations have to dip into the stock planned for the winter and/or part with some of their herd.

Potatoes

The potato tuber contains a high proportion of water – 77% on average. Potatoes are therefore all susceptible to water stress, although this varies from variety to variety. The dryness means the tubers get smaller and so does the resulting vegetable. Some will not be viable. This greatly reduces the potential for salable potatoes.

Potatoes need a lot of water. // Source: Pixabay

Olives (and therefore olive oil)

Olive growers have spoken out in several media about the lack of a viable harvest this summer. It is related to the behavior of the tree, the olive trees: in case of high heat, it gets rid of its fruits prematurely and closes its leaves to save energy to survive. This is how an Ardèche producer, for example, explains FranceInfo that he will lose 80% of his crops this year, something he has never seen before.

This will have implications for olive oil, which will therefore be placed on top of a shortage of sunflower oil due to the crisis in Ukraine.

The grains

For cereal crops, the Agreste figures are not very encouraging for certain varieties:

  • The grain: ” The growing conditions, which are dry and hot, are detrimental to the development of corn. Grain areas (including seeds) would decrease by 90 thousand hectares compared to 2021, and yields would be
    86.7 q/ha, compared to 100.2 q/ha in 2021.
    »
  • The sunflower: ” The yield potential can be strongly affected by drought: its early estimate is 22.8 q/ha, i.e. 4.6 q/ha less than in 2021. »

The Agreste report concludes that there is a problem that goes beyond French borders because it affects all of Europe: ” The outlook for EU summer crop yields has been significantly reduced due to persistent hot and dry weather conditions. Grain corn, sunflower and soybean yields would be well below the five-year average. »

Wine

On the specialized site Vitisphere, the alarm has been launched: the drought is putting the vineyards in distress. Some vines, especially younger ones, are wilting. In older vines, it is defoliation (leaves falling). While they should be getting bigger, the grains are getting smaller.

vines
The vines are very much to be in poor condition this summer 2022, or to produce small grapes. // Source: Pixabay

The poorly irrigated vines lack malic acid, an essential ingredient in the wine’s color and taste. Faced with a significant loss of natural content in the grapes, producers will have to compensate with more alcohol during the winemaking process.

Water stress is therefore likely to have a qualitative and quantitative impact on all harvests.

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