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Severe Frost in France Leaves a Trail of Lost Crops Behind

Manisha Jha and Megan Durisin
·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- A sudden cold snap in France has ravaged crops from sugar beet to fruits and vineyards, leaving the nation’s farmers reeling under what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie described as “probably the biggest agronomic disaster of the beginning of the 21st century,” according to one report.

Frosty weather early last week followed a streak of mild temperatures that had spurred rapid vegetation on farms, leaving plants and vineyards vulnerable. The fast swing in April temperatures was the most drastic since 1947, and more frosts are possible on Wednesday and Thursday in northern regions, according to Meteo France.

Sugar beet growers will see bigger-than-expected losses of more than 10% of their total planted area, said farmer group CGB. Losses in vineyards and fruit orchards could be as high as 80% in some regions, news service AFP reported, citing agriculture officials.

“This event is another challenge for French beet growers that already faced a disastrous campaign last year” due to a crop virus and prolonged low prices, said Timothe Masson, an agronomist at CGB.

If growers aren’t able to re-plant lost beet, then the European Union’s top sugar producer and exporter could lose as much as half a million tons of production next season, according to Masson. CGB described the recent acreage losses as the “worst ever” due to frost for the country’s beet industry. The agriculture ministry warned of “significant consequences” for plantings in a report Tuesday.

Wine Impact

Temperatures fell as low as minus 3.3 degrees Celsius (26 Fahrenheit) last week at Samuel Masse’s vineyard in southern France. He expects that production on more than half of his 25 hectares has been lost as a result, with other plots likely also seeing damage.

“Everything has been affected by this severe frost,” Masse said. “The economical impact will be huge for us. This is really going to affect the entire wine production of Europe.”

Neighboring farms producing fruits like cherries and apricots were also hit, according to Masse. After a string of difficult weather in recent seasons, he’s now considering diversifying into other crops like olives in future years.

Rapeseed plots may have been damaged during the frost, risking further shrinking supplies after farmers cut plantings to a two-decade low, according to Paris-based adviser Agritel. Some barley was also at risk, and farmers may replant with corn or sunflower. Crops agency FranceAgriMer will update its condition ratings at the end of the week.

(Updates with weather outlook in second paragraph.)

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