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French drought causes early – and poor – apple harvest in Brittany

Producers have warned that the cider apple-producing region has suffered after a hot and dry summer and future harvests are also in doubt

A photo of an apple tree full of fruit

By the end of August, the trees are usually full of fruit but conditions have been harsh this year Pic: Tommy Lee Walker / Shutterstock

Apple producers in northwest France have been forced to harvest their crop early this year and have warned that yields are up to 20-50% lower due to the persistent drought conditions.

Producers in Brittany say that their apples are smaller and less numerous this year after there was no rain for almost two months over the summer.

The intense heatwave conditions, coupled with the drought, stopped the cider apples from growing, producers said, in an unprecedented situation in the region.

Jean-Marie Gouret, who together with family member Adrien, is a producer and harvester in Plestan, Côtes-d’Armor, told France 3: “To date, normally the apples would be 20-30% larger. The risk is that we will see this [again] in future years.”

The Gourets manage a 40-hectare farm with 30 varieties of cider and juice apples. At the end of August, their trees are usually full of large fruit, but not this year.

Jean-Marie said: “Production this year is down by half, or even triple. It’s really worrying for the future of the profession. The drop in yield is at 20-50% for the most-affected growers. The apples fell quickly this summer.”

Even the usually-later varieties are suffering, he said. They remain very small and are not growing well. The trees have been suffering too.

Read more: French cider makers seek pomme perfection 

Adrien said: “We can see the lack of water. The leaves have been burned. The apple trees are tired. They have been producing this year, but the apples are small, and if there are more droughts in future, will the trees be able to produce? We are asking ourselves about the next few years.”

The apple harvest season is set to begin three weeks in advance of the normal calendar. 

The year 2022 is already looking to be a ‘bad’ year, especially in Brittany, which is a major cider apple-producing hub and typically produces around 34,000 tonnes per year.

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