If the French are familiar with the famous proverb whose rhyme unites the words avril and fil, fruit producers and winegrowers measure the concrete consequences. “To the Ice Saints (around May 10, editor’s note)farmers know that extreme cold spells can occur, explains Stéphanie Prat, director of the National Federation of Fruit Producers (FNPF). These days of harsh weather are therefore not a surprise. »
“What is much rarer is the period of great mildness, even heat, that we experienced during the last week of March”, points out the director of the FNPF. According to Météo France, temperatures were 6 to 8 degrees above normal. In the orchards, this unusual heat resulted in the start of early flowering, which particularly concerns kiwis, apricot trees and plum trees… And it is because the trees have flowered that they are even more threatened by the freeze.
2 billion losses
This is what happened last year, from April 4 to 8, 2021, when temperatures of up to – 5 ° C hit more than 80 departments. The government had estimated, a few months later, that wine losses had reached 30% across France or even 50% for stone fruits.
“The government has implemented a support plan for the sectors worth one billion euros, says Rémi Dubourg, agro-economist at the chambers of agriculture. This included in particular the assumption of social security contributions and, of course, compensation for losses in respect of agricultural calamities. »
To try to avoid such a disaster, the farmers therefore mobilized at the bedside of their fields. According to Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA, the main French agricultural union, “many have anticipated by launching the sprinkling of their orchards”, that is to say in “Spraying water so that a thin film of ice forms around the buds, which will remain at 0°C”.
The brazier method
Other methods can also be used to fight against these attacks of frost: candles and braziers arranged in a regular manner on the farm, or even small towers at the top of which blades draw air from altitude, warmer , to the ground.
In any case, it is too early to know whether or not this weather will have serious consequences. This will depend on the duration of exposure to frost but also on the hygrometry. Still, farmers are aware that these thermometer roller coasters are likely to multiply due to global warming. The frosts, which are usual, would therefore be likely to occur regularly after mild weather that is less so.
Less than 5% of arborists insured
Can this threat increase the level of adherence of professionals to agricultural insurance? “This rate depends on the sectors, notes Rémi Dubourg : 30 to 35% in field crops but less than 5% in arboriculture. » According to Stephanie Prat, “Very few farmers take out such insurance because of the cost. Some insurers have even given up offering them.
With the challenge of making this crop insurance more accessible to farmers, the government presented a bill which was adopted by Parliament last February and which should come into force in 2023.
The plan notably provides for a State subsidy, which could go up to 70% of the amount of contributions depending on the sector (65% today), a reduction in the deductible and a three-tier system: depending on the rate of losses, these would be assumed by the producer, the insurer or the State.