French Farmers Feel Impacts of Worsening Drought

A lack of rainfall last autumn and winter combined with low soil moisture and water levels means water restrictions are already being implemented across southern France.
Ares, France
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 25, 2022 17:00 UTC

Many regions in France face a pro­longed drought that is impact­ing water avail­abil­ity, soil mois­ture, and farm­ing activ­i­ties.

Forecasts show that most French depart­ments will have to cope with a long dry sum­mer which will exac­er­bate the effects of the drought in sev­eral areas.

We must be frank, with the hydro­log­i­cal fore­casts that Meteo France pro­duced for the end of May and early of June, there will be a whole part of France which will, in any case, be per­ma­nently affected.- Jean-Charles Deswarte, agron­o­mist, Arvalis

A map pub­lished by the Ministry for Ecological Transition shows that 76 of France’s 96 depart­ments are in a state of alert. Furthermore, 26 (of the 76) are in a state of high alert.

Drought risk lev­els are deter­mined by exam­in­ing water lev­els in reser­voirs, lakes and rivers while also con­sid­er­ing ground­wa­ter and soil mois­ture lev­els.

See Also:Drought and Heat Cause Concern for Farmers Across Spain

According to the min­istry, cur­rent restric­tions on water use are being applied in south­ern depart­ments, where the vast major­ity of the coun­try’s olive oil is pro­duced.

According to the French news­pa­per, LeMonde, the grim fore­casts for the cur­rent drought are fueled by sig­nif­i­cantly lower than aver­age rain­fall last autumn and win­ter, which usu­ally replen­ishes water lev­els and leads to more avail­abil­ity later in the sea­son.

Simon Mittelberger, a cli­ma­tol­o­gist at Méteo-France, told LeMonde that the sit­u­a­tion would likely be worse in 22 depart­ments by the end of sum­mer.

Water scarcity in May, paired with lower soil mois­ture and record-break­ing heat, is hav­ing a par­tic­u­larly pro­found impact on agri­cul­ture.

The month of May is not only very hot but also very dry,” Olivier Proust, a fore­cast­ing engi­neer at Météo-France, told Agence France Press. From the Belgian bor­der to the Atlantic, we have a 20 to 30 per­cent rain­fall deficit.”

This sum­mer, the most sig­nif­i­cant impacts are expected to be felt by wheat and bar­ley pro­duc­ers.

The plant is in the run-up phase at the moment, a cru­cial period that deter­mines the num­ber of grains and their qual­ity,” said Joël Limouzin, a farmer and vice-pres­i­dent of the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions.

He added that many farm­ers in sev­eral areas, includ­ing ones that do not usu­ally need to, have already used irri­ga­tion to sus­tain the crops used for ani­mal food.

See Also:Farmers Are Facing the Brunt of Portugal’s Worsening Drought

We must be frank, with the hydro­log­i­cal fore­casts that Meteo France pro­duced for the end of May and early of June, there will be a whole part of France which will, in any case, be per­ma­nently affected,” Jean-Charles Deswarte, an agron­o­mist at the crop insti­tute Arvalis, told Reuters.

According to Deswarte, almost one-third of crop poten­tial has already been lost in regions with drop­ping sur­face or mid-soil water lev­els. As a result, crop poten­tial could fall by 50 per­cent in some areas.

Whether it be for corn, sun­flower or sorghum when there is no water, there is no plant,” he said.

Given the sit­u­a­tion and the enor­mous amount of water needed for the sec­tor, the agri-food indus­try in sev­eral areas is cam­paign­ing to reuse treated waste­water, reg­u­la­tions which are con­sid­ered more strict in France than else­where in Europe.

The water scarcity sit­u­a­tion is espe­cially wor­ry­ing for south­ern France, and many areas where olive trees are grown are cur­rently affected by the drought.

In the south­east, rain­fall lev­els are down 53 per­cent, from Bouches-du-Rhône to Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

The pre­fec­ture of Bouches-du-Rhône has acti­vated a state of cri­sis for the Huveaune river basins, which means 19 munic­i­pal­i­ties and some areas of Marseille face water restric­tions. Several por­tions of the river have report­edly dried up.

To limit the effects of the drought, the min­istry said the mea­sures aim to pre­serve water and ensure access to drink­ing water and for pub­lic health while remain­ing atten­tive to the chal­lenges of agri­cul­tural and energy activ­i­ties.”

In the face of drought, sav­ing water must be everyone’s busi­ness,” the min­istry con­cluded.


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