The paddy fields of the... Camargue

Jane Hanks explains the history of Camargue rice

October is harvest time for rice in the Camargue, where 200 rice farmers produce 80,000 tonnes a year from 15,000 hectares of land in the only rice region of France.

It has all the requirements for this crop – abundant water from the Rhône delta, sun, and the mistral wind, which dries the rice naturally after harvest.

Rice was introduced into southern France at the end of the 13th century. In August 1593, Henry IV, on the advice of his chief minister, Duke of Sully, ordered the production of rice in the Camargue.
Until 1930, it was mainly used to create agricultural land for other crops such as vines, because it prevented the region reverting to unproductive salt marshes.

However during the war years, rice became an important food source and production increased.

After the Second World War, money from the Marshall Plan aimed at revitalising Europe, was invested in the area, which allowed irrigation and drainage ditches to be created, land to be levelled, and pumping stations, rice transformation centres and silos to be built. By 2000, the Riz de Camargue had obtained the European Protected Geographical ...

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