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    Lacklustre harvest forecast for France’s vineyards

    © Belga

    France’s Agriculture Ministry has revised downward the country’s 2019 wine-production forecast to 42.2 million hectolitres, “14% less than that of 2018,” its statistical service, Agreste, indicated on Monday.

    The trend was already noted in an Agreste forecast in late August, which attributed the sector’s poor performance to frost, then excessive heat and drought in summer.

    Still, this year’s output will not be a repeat of the 2017 disaster, when France registered its worst harvest since 1945, about 37 million hectolitres, also due to frosts and heat.

    In 2019, “after a spring frost in some vineyards, flowering occurred in adverse weather conditions (humidity and low temperatures) leading to flower displacement and sometimes millerandage (small or irregular-sized fruit),” Agreste explained in its note. “The basins in the western part of the country were the worst hit.”

    On the other hand, extreme heat waves in June and July “had a more marked effect on some departments in the South, such as the Gard, l’Hérault and Var, causing burnt fruit and production losses,” it added.

    Pointing to another consequence of the drought, Agreste disclosed that “the ground water reserves, already less on 1 July than the average for the past 30 years, decreased throughout the summer”.

    The drought, which worsened up to the harvest, along with the high temperatures, “accentuated the drop in production, particularly in the Mediterranean winegrowing basins,” the ministry noted.

    The only advantage of the extreme heat is that “the pressure from disease was lessened in most vineyards, compared to 2018,” added Agreste, whose survey was done on 1 October, by which time harvesting was well under way, and even finished in some Mediterranean vineyards.

    Oscar Schneider

    The Brussels Times