THE GOVERNMENT has pledged to double its financial aid to farmers who are facing the worst drought in 35 years.
Several hundred million euros will be handed over by mid-September on a region-by-region basis, with priority given to livestock farmers, some of whom have resorted to selling animals for early slaughter - at reduced prices - because they can no longer feed them.
Some 55 departments have imposed water restrictions, but agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire said the crisis affected all of France and called for national solidarity.
However, he ruled out calls for a national "drought tax" to raise money, similar to that levied during the 1976 drought.
The government had initially planned to offer up to €100m from its agricultural crisis fund, but this will now be at least doubled. Crédit Agricole bank has also agreed to make €700m in loans available to help farmers with cashflow problems.
It has been the hottest spring in France since 1900, with daytime temperatures 2.6°C warmer than average. Many parts of western France have not seen any rain in three months.
A "surveillance cell" has been set up to monitor water flow to nuclear power stations.