Why Salt Farmers Are the Unwitting Winners of France’s Drought

From blistering heatwaves and droughts that have parched the French countryside in recent weeks, one group has reluctantly emerged as the winner; Salt farmers in the northwestern region of Guerande.

Uerande’s snow-white fleur de sel (‘flower of salt’) that crystallizes on the water’s surface is one of the finest salts on the world market, costing over $100 a kilogram in the United States.

As temperatures have soared in recent months and almost no rainfall has turbocharged saltwater evaporation in the region, production has skyrocketed.

“We’re heading towards record production,” said producer Francois Durand, who has worked in the salt marshes for more than 20 years.

Sea salt production over the past decade has averaged about 1.3 tons per pan, but this year the yield has almost doubled to 2.5 tons, he said.


Francois Durand has been working in the salt marshes for more than 20 years. Photo: Reuters/Yann Tessier

He acknowledged that this makes him one of the few near-term winners from climate change while parts of the country grapple with wildfires and water shortages.

“You could say that, yes. Unfortunately,” he continued. “It’s clear it’s good for us.” In a region better known for its changeable Atlantic weather, more than 40 days of uninterrupted sunshine and light winds have meant little rest for those working at the salt flats, he said the worker Audrey Loyer.

It’s backbreaking work; Under the scorching sun, workers push wheelbarrows along the narrow mud walls separating each pan, scraping the sea salt from the floor of the plains using methods and tools little changed in more than four centuries. No machines are allowed during harvest.

“The workers are tired,” said Mathilde Bergier, a salt producer who runs a local shop. “It hasn’t rained enough in the apartments to justify a break.”

Bergier also worries that the intense pace required by this summer’s endless sun will be unsustainable and worries that the fragile mud structures where seawater evaporates might not survive that hard work year after year.

When the sun finally sets in this year’s record-breaking season, the region’s salt producers may be wondering what to do with all that salt as non-stop hot weather becomes the norm.

© Reuters Why Salt Farmers Are the Unwitting Winners of France’s Drought

Fry Electronics Team

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