The French Department of Pyrénées-Orientales is facing an exceptional drought, escalating the alert level to crisis status. This move aims to ensure water supply throughout the summer while considering its impact on economic actors, particularly the agriculture sector, which has demonstrated responsible management amid difficulties over the past year.
Following a request from the Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, Marc Fesneau, a detailed analysis was undertaken to shape an appropriate crisis response. As a result, a “flash” mission was launched in late April by the General Council of Food, Agriculture, and Rural Spaces to this effect.
The Minister underscored the need for a “minimum agricultural flow,” which involves maintaining a water supply to preserve agricultural activity in the region, thus ensuring food sovereignty. This is particularly vital in the French Department, where irrigation is essential for arboriculture to guarantee the survival of trees. For permanent crops, the plant’s survival helps prevent losses for the farmer over several years. Furthermore, such a flow responds to the immediate concern of mitigating drought impacts.
To provide immediate prospects for bolstering farm cash flow, the Minister highlighted that automatic relief from unbuilt land tax and a deferral of social contributions for the affected farmers would be granted. France also requests an increase in advance CAP aid payments from the European Union, set to be disbursed from October 16th. In addition, a temporary reinforcement for decentralized services under the department’s prefect has been announced to support farmers, especially those with the most difficulties.
The crop insurance reform, which came into effect on January 1st, will partly cover losses, even for uninsured farmers. In addition, all productions heavily affected by drought in the coming months will benefit from a “national solidarity” compensation at the end of the production period. No administrative decision to restrict irrigation will limit this compensation.
The Minister also emphasized the importance of medium and long-term planning, including the increased use of non-conventional water sources for agricultural and agri-food activity, as requested by the French President.
For Marc Fesneau, “acting responsibly means ensuring everyone makes their share of the effort towards sobriety. This also concerns farmers, who are fully committed to this area in this department. At the same time, the imperative of sovereignty and food security requires a minimum agricultural flow to ensure them. I am committed to supporting farmers; the reform of the risk management system that came into effect on January 1st is a sign of national solidarity, complemented by cash flow support. The state is and will be there to support the farmers of the department who are and will be impacted by the drought situation.”