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CLIMATE

‘Third of French wine production lost’ due to cold snap

At least a third of French wine production this year, representing almost €2 billion in sales, will be lost due to a bout of unusually cold early spring weather, a federation said Wednesday.

'Third of French wine production lost' due to cold snap
A winemaker in Le Landreau, near Nantes, checks his vines to see if there is any life left. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

National Federation of Agricultural Holders’ Unions (FNSEA) secretary general Jérôme Despey told AFP that the estimate was made after consultations with all the players in the sector.

The rare freezing temperatures that have caused some of the worst damage in decades to crops and vines struck across France earlier this month, with the consequences compounded by the fact the cold snap came after warm weather.

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze with candles in bid to ward off frosts

“We should have six bunches of grapes per vine. Now we’re hoping for maybe one,” Michael Gerin told AFP at his 17-hectare property in the heart of the Rôone valley, one of the country’s prime wine-growing regions.

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts

“This is probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century,” Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said on Monday, adding that France has never seen such an frost wave in early spring. The government is preparing an emergency package of measures.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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