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FARMING

Has the summer drought left France heading for a spud shortage?

It's harvest time and the chips are down for potato producers in northern France where a long summer drought could see French spuds shrink in size and volume.

Has the summer drought left France heading for a spud shortage?
The potatoes “first lacked water and then when rain fell in July started growing anew” which means the original plants lost starch and gained too much water, spoiling them, said Regis Dumont, a potato farmer from Warhem near the Belgian border.
   
Then they got a roasting, with temperatures soaring to 37 degrees centigrade (98 Fahrenheit) in August, unusually hot for the northern French plains which account for two-thirds of the national potato crop.
 
All five top European Union potato producers — Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom — have been hit by the unusually hot summer weather.
 
Photo: AFP
   
Total production in France is likely to drop to around 24 million tonnes, compared to 29 million last year, said Francois-Xavier Broutin of the National 
Union of Potato Producers.
   
Apart from farmers, producers of French fries are also being hit.
   
“We have to dunk the potatoes in salt baths to eliminate the bad ones,” says Christian Vanderheyden, a senior executive at McCain Potato Products, explaining that rotten potatoes float to the top.
   
“This requires more equipment and higher costs,” he added.
   
Down the food chain, Mickael Orgaer, who sells chips from a van in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, says the price of a five-kilogramme sack of potatoes had risen 23 percent, forcing him to pass on the extra cost to customers.
   
“Because the potatoes aren't ripe enough they spit out water and their size means the chips are smaller,” he said.

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FARMING

French hunter kills bear that bit him

A 70-year-old hunter killed a bear in southwest France Saturday after it attacked and seriously wounded him, local officials said.

A brown bear is pictured in the semi-wildlife animal park of Les Angles, southwestern France.
Brown bears had nearly disappeared in France until the country began a reintroduction programme, importing them from Slovenia. AFP PHOTO / RAYMOND ROIG

The female bear, who was travelling with her cubs, bit him as he was hunting in the Seix region of Ariege, a source close to the case said.

Rescued by the local gendarmerie, he was transported to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Toulouse with a wound to his leg at the level of his femoral artery, officials at the prefecture in Ariege said.

One source close to the case said he was in a serious condition.

The hunter told local officials he had been out with a group of other hunters on the trail of a boar, when the female bear, who was travelling with her cubs, attacked him.

After being wounded, the hunter shot the bear twice, killing it.

The local gendarme unit was called out to rescue him at around 3:30 pm (1430 GMT). They discovered the body of the bear a few metres from where they had found the hunter.

An investigation has been opened into the incident, the prefecture in Ariege said.

One local official told AFP on Saturday: “This is really what we feared.”

“Today, you can really see that cohabitation is complicated,” said Christine Tequi, president of the Ariege department council.

The brown bear had nearly disappeared in this part of the world when France began a programme of reintroducing them, importing them from Slovenia.

Today, there are around sixty of them in the Pyrenees range, leading to increasing tensions with local farmers, because of the threat they pose to their livestock.

In 2020, three bears were illegally killed in the Pyrenees: two of them in Spain and one in France. The French government has committed to replacing any bear killed by a man.

READ ALSO: The decades-old battle between French farmers and conservationists over bears
READ ALSO: What are the most dangerous animals in France?

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