When the phenomena [climatiques] are repeated, we are less exceptional. I hope that we are not in the rule ” poses Marc Fesneau, the new Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, visiting this Monday June 6 the vineyards of Bordeaux, in Saint-Quentin de Caplong (Gironde), and in Gascony, in Castelnau d’Auzan (Gers ). Two vineyards affected by the violent storms which began on Thursday June 2 and which swept across France until Saturday June 5 (with substantial damage in the Gers*, Landes, Indre-et-Loire, eastern Gironde**, western Dordogne…).
“These more numerous phenomena, sometimes more extensive, more powerful, should raise questions about the prevention capacity (frost, hail, irrigation, etc.) and the [nouveau] insurance system (which must be implemented on January 1, 2023)” adds the Minister, emphasizing that the succession of climatic hazards is “an issue of sovereignty. The repetition of phenomena weakens our productions. » Statements inspired by the impressive damage he observes (see photos below) and the requests from the vineyard made on the Danis estate (40 hectares in AOP Armagnac and IGP Côtes de Gascogne).
To show the minister the extent of the damage, the winemaker Vincent Piquemal welcomes him to a plot of ugni blanc which had frozen to 10-15% this spring, but had left enough to expect a yield of 80 to 90 hl/ Ha. After the violent hailstorm on Friday June 4, the estate is now counting on losses of 100% for the 2022 vintage, as well as 50% in 2023 (the floral induction of the next harvest starting in June in very degraded conditions ). In this context, weather insurance becomes the crux of the matter. “We contribute for a potential production of 100 to 110 hl/ha, but we are insured for 40 to 50 hl/ha (by calculating production according to the Olympic average, with four poor harvests out of the last five)” explains Vincent Piquemal. Ensuring a capital of €3,200/ha, the 20% deductible lowers its compensation well below the €4,000/ha of incompressible charges adds the winegrower, knowing that additional costs are to come on his pockmarked plots (with the descent of what had been trained, a second pruning…and all the current increases in raw material costs.)
The central topic of the Minister’s visit was agricultural risk management in the face of climate change. “In 2022, we are in a vice between the very disaster of 2021 and the reform of 2023. The overhaul of insurance in 2022 means that with frost and hail, people will have trouble getting back to the year next, they will de-insure” fears Joël Boueilh, the president of the section of the Winegrowers Cooperators of France of the Agricultural Cooperation.
“It is no longer enough to tell us that the Olympic average is not compatible with the WTO (World Trade Organization), but to tell us, Minister, what must be done to change the rules at European level” adds Jérôme Despey, the president of the specialized wine council of FranceAgriMer. Under penalty of having a disincentive to insurance: “every year, there is frost, hail, drought, heat waves, floods… We have potential references that are too low. » The sector’s request is clear: no longer take as a reference the average yield achieved over the disaster years, but a revised yield, whether it is calculated in another way (less penalizing) or whether it is a yield of objective (agronomically validated).
“Honestly, it’s not just a national subject. It is a European subject first and also a WTO issue” indicates Marc Fesneau, stressing that France must now find European allies to bring the subject to Brussels. The file being thorny, the Minister wants to be reassuring: “It’s not because it’s a distant and complicated subject that we shouldn’t try to focus on it in order to find solutions. It would surprise me if we were the only country in the world that knows about these phenomena of climate change and for whom this question is asked. » Faced with listening to the minister, “Changes are needed for 2023, otherwise there will be no incentive insurance. The matter must be settled by then.” reacts Jérôme Despey
Among the short-term emergency measures for the affected vineyards, the minister mentions social and tax aid (exemptions from MSA contributions, suspension of the tax on non-built land, etc.), as well as the possible opening of a relief fund. emergency for hailed vineyards (identical to that which arborists benefited from after the 2021 frost). In addition for uninsured winegrowers, “we must reactivate as widely as possible access to the fund for agricultural disasters. This year we are without a net” pleads Bernard Malabirade, the president of the Gers Chamber of Agriculture.
Cash needs will quickly be felt in the vineyards chopped down by hailstones. “We had raised and trellised, we will have to bring everything back down with the employees so that it grows back” reports Vincent Piquemal. The winemaker also indicates that he needs urgent administrative measures. Having 6 ha of land to restructure, he wants to devitalize it this year to uproot it without spending more. The request for emergency uprooting aid will be on the agenda for the next FranceAgriMer specialist wine council, which will be held this Thursday, June 9. The measure has already been taken in the past underlines Jérôme Despey.
Among the classic measures, there are also plans for the purchase of harvests between winegrowers without taking on the status of merchant. Market supply being a key topic. “With the disaster we see losses among winegrowers, but there will also be commercial losses, market share losses” underlines Olivier Dabadie, the president of the interprofessional section of the IGP Côtes de Gascogne, who is worried about a new slowdown in the sales of his aromatic white wines. “We are talking about operating insurance, but for cooperative cellars and independent winegrowers, an insurance component must be developed on the lack of supply. To support depreciation costs on processing investments when costs explode for lack of grapes” adds Joël Boueilh. On this point, Marc Fesneau however kicks in touch, which is not the case concerning the extension of the repayments of Loans Guaranteed by the State (PGE).
In the agricultural world, “It is viticulture that has taken out the most PGEs” reminds Jérôme Despey, who asks for a smoothing of repayments over 10 years without going through credit mediation. On the EMP, “we are in the state of mind that you mention, not going through the mediator, it would be cumbersome. We’re working on it, I won’t say more to date, but I’m hopeful that on this subject it will work” answers Marc Fesneau, evoking budgetary arbitrations to come in July. “Efficiency in this moment is speed” indicates the Minister, for whom the urgency is currently the diagnosis of the damage in order to be able to put together files responding to the specificities of each affected farm.
Landscape of desolation for the arrival of the Minister of Agriculture this June 6 in the vineyards of Gers, in the town of Castelnau d’Auzan.
Plane tree branches have fallen on neighboring plots of the Danis estate…
… The twigs are broken, the leaves rolled and the budding clusters are broken. Farm buildings are also affected. “My Armagnac cellar is full of water, with broken tiles” testifies Vincent Piquemal.
*: According to initial findings, the damage is observed in 25 municipalities for the Landes (Perquie, Arthez d’Armagnac, le Frêche, Labastide d’Armagnac, Mauvezin d’Amargnac, Lagrange, Parleboscq, Escalans, Gabarret, Creon d’Armagnac, Saint-Julien d’Armagnac), the Gers (Lannemaignan, Mauléon d’Armagnac, Monclar d’Amagnac, Cazaubon, Larée, Castelnau d’Auzan, Labarrère, Montreal du Gers, Fources, Larroque sur Loasse) and the Lot-et-Garonne (Saint-Pé Saint-Simon, Sainte Mause).
**: As well as locally in the Médoc (Listrac and Cussac area) and Blayais (Mazion area) indicates Bruno Samie, coordinator of wine advice at the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture.