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French fruit, vineyards endure coldest April day in 75 years

Vintners burned candles to protect the vineyards from the coldest April day in 75 years

Vintners burned candles to protect the vineyards from the coldest April day in 75 years.

French wine and fruit growers were hit Sunday night and early Monday by the coldest April day since 1947, the second year in a row they have suffered unusual spring weather.

Growers lit candles, sprayed water and used wind turbines to protect their crops as temperatures fell below freezing, with a record low of -9.3C in Mourmelon in the Marne department, east of Paris.

Experts say that unpredictable weather is becoming more common due to climate change.

Temperatures rose on Monday, according to Meteo France forecaster Patrick Galois, but he warned there would still be frost between south-west and central France.

Farmers fear the worst.

“It’s very bad. It hit hard overnight. Many fruit growers are affected,” Christiane Lambert, president of farmers’ union FNSEA, told AFP.

The Department of Agriculture said it was “too early” to draw any conclusions about the damage.

“The damage is only visible after a few days,” it said.

Fruit trees are more vulnerable than vineyards this year, the ministry said.

In the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the south-west, Damien Garrigues sprayed his apple trees to cover the buds with ice to protect them from even lower temperatures.

Smoke blankets this vineyard as growers scramble to protect the crop from the second consecutive unusual spring weather event

Smoke blankets this vineyard as growers scramble to protect the crop from the second consecutive unusual spring weather event.

“It’s not as bad right now as it was last year,” he said, noting that he lost 20 percent of production in 2021.

In Agen, in the neighboring department of Lot-et-Garonne, “big losses” are expected for plum growers, but not as bad as last year when “100 percent” were ruined by the cold snap, said Remy Muller, an adviser to the department’s Chamber of Agriculture.

A pinwheel was used at Eric Chadourne’s vineyard in Bergerac, also in the south-west, to limit the damage.

But elsewhere, “all the early bud, merlot, white grapes and malbec are frozen,” Chadourne said.

Apple trees were sprayed with water in hopes that ice would protect the buds from colder temperatures

Apple trees were sprayed with water in hopes that ice would protect the buds from colder temperatures.

A cold snap in April last year halved the harvest of apricots, cherries and pears compared to previous years, according to official statistics.

Wine production also fell to a historically low level, down 19 percent on an annualized basis.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said money could be released from an emergency fund to help producers if needed.


Heat brings relief to French vineyards


© 2022 AFP

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Russell Falcon

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