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Drought: France faces winter milk shortage, warns farming union head

The union leader has called for milk prices to increase to help farmers through a tough period caused by drought and high temperatures

Droughts have led to many crops, typically used for feeding animals and vital to milk production, to dry out Pic: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

France risks facing a shortage of milk in the next few months with droughts and high temperatures impacting the crops used to feed animals, the head of FNSEA, an umbrella organisation representing agricultural unions, has warned. 

“I think that in the coming months there will be a milk shortage in France,” Yannick Fialip told Franceinfo. 

“To make milk, you need fodder, essentially alfalfa and maize, which have not grown much this year. So there is a risk of a milk shortage this autumn and winter.”

“We have animals… that have nothing to eat. It means we have to bring in fodder that we stored this spring that was intended to feed the animals in winter.

“We are tapping into our stocks. This is unusual and we are very worried about the ability of many farmers to feed their herds over the whole winter.”

Mr Fialip called for the price of milk to be raised to help farmers survive. 

“The most important [financial aid we can receive] is an increase in the prices paid to farmers,” he said.

“The price of milk in France is 20% lower than the price paid to other European producers, notably in Germany and the Netherlands.

“One of the first measures [the government should take] should be to better remunerate our breeders, which would allow them to have better cash flow and ensure the sustainability of the sector.

“There is a big risk that some breeders will decide to depopulate their herd due to this problem.”

France’s summer of drought and heatwaves

Record-breaking temperatures have hit France this summer, along with periods of no rain leading to a drought crisis. 

Mr Fialip said this combination of factors is “drying out” plants that are commonly grown to feed animals, such as maize. 

July 2022 was the second driest month ever recorded in France, after March 1961, with a rainfall deficit of about 84% compared to long-term averages during between 1991-2020. 

“This drought is the most serious ever recorded in our country",”France’s prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said yesterday (August 5). 

She has set up an inter-ministerial crisis unit to tackle the drought. 

France’s minister for ecological transition, Christophe Béchu, yesterday announced that 100 communes are currently without any drinkable tap water with sources, such as reservoirs, depleted. 

He called the situation “historic”, adding that the “challenge is to tighten a number of restrictions to avoid this happening [elsewhere]”. 

In the southern department of Var, nine communes have taken the step of limiting residents’ daily water consumption to 150 or 200 litres per day per person. 

Read more: French drought measures: How much water do household appliances use?

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60 French departments have ‘crisis’ drought alerts as heat continues

Vigilance, alert, crisis: what France’s four drought warnings mean

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