France to announce agricultural 'disaster' over spring frost

Paris, France: According to the agriculture minister, the French government will declare an agricultural disaster due to an unusually early spring frost that has destroyed crops and vines across the region.

Late Thursday, Julien Denormandie of Franceinfo radio said the cold snap had been "especially difficult" for the sector, with "major losses" reported.

"We are completely mobilized so that the accompanying measures can be put in place as quickly as possible," he said.

Specifically, they will impose a regime of agricultural catastrophe, he said, adding that tax cuts, as well as assistance from banks and insurance companies, could be in the works, and warning that more cold weather could be on the way.

He described the situation as "very exceptional," with vineyards affected as well as other crops such as beet and rapeseed in regions spanning the country from north to south.

Crop candles

In order to avoid freezing, French winemakers have set thousands of small fires, causing a layer of smog in the country's southeast.

Beautiful images on social media show thousands of small fires lit across the fields. 

Lighting fires or candles near vines or fruit trees to avoid frost formation is a long-standing method used in early spring when the first green shoots are exposed to the cold.

Whole hillsides appear to be on fire, producing a striking visual effect, with winemakers scrambling this week as temperatures plummeted below freezing, especially in southeast France's fertile Rhone valley.

The CNIV national winemakers' association has warned that the situation is "one of the most severe in recent decades" and that production for the year will be reduced.

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