plumping up shrivelled market for frances famed prunes
Last Updated : GMT 23:32:42
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Plumping up shrivelled market for France's famed prunes

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Plumping up shrivelled market for France's famed prunes

France's famous Agen prunes
Paris - AFP

France's famous Agen prunes have seen their market share shrivel in recent years under pressure from Chilean growers, but local farmers have ploughed money into modern methods in a bid to save their plums.

The rolling valleys in the Lot-et-Garonne region of southwest France are speckled with the white flowers of plum blossoms at this time of year.

They are all from the Ente plum variety -- the only one approved by French authorities -- with a history that dates back at least to the 13th century and has given the resulting prunes a legendary status.

During the peak harvest in late summer, the air fills with the scent of caramel and plum as the farmers dry out their fruits in large gas ovens, producing the distinctly rich flavour.

But pressure from global competitors has taken its toll.

"We were navel-gazing and thinking we were perfect," says farmer Patrick Leger, standing beside his picturesque orchard.

"In the 90s, the Chileans came here and took our savoir-faire, and then our markets by offering much lower prices. We were almost wiped out," says Leger, who has the physique of a rugby player, another speciality of the region.

Part of the problem was the small scale of production in the region. Traditional orchards were only 15 to 20 hectares (37 to 50 acres) in Agen, compared with over 300 hectares in Chile.

"Compared to them, we are like gardeners," said Leger.

In just a few years, Chile has leapt to the number two spot in prune production -- producing some 80,000 tonnes a year, just behind California which is on around 100,000.

Agen is falling far behind, with around 45,000 tonnes.

While Californian prunes end up mostly in American kitchens, the Chileans have targeted European buyers in Scandinavia, Spain and Germany -- and even the traditional French backyard of Algeria.

The 1,400 prune farms in Agen -- and the 10,000 employees who rely on them -- faced mounting financial trouble in a region that was already struggling with low employment and few opportunities for the young.

In desperation, locals launched a plan in 2013 to overhaul and modernise the industry -- including a dramatic increase in the area being cultivated.

- Saving the prune -

This winter, 250 new hectares were planted, and the aim is to eventually reach 500 or 600 a year.

"The goal was to professionalise the job of prune-growing, with a plan to renovate the orchards," says Jacques Pomies, president of the Bureau of Prune Professionals, which represents growers.

The plan is already bearing fruit, he says, with earnings three times higher than 2013.

Growers are also seeking to maximise space and efficiency, bunching trees much closer together.

One local farmer, Vincent Lapierre has used GPS technology to ensure his trees are just 1.5 metres apart (five feet), compared to the traditional six or seven metres.

Tighter trees also help protect against storms that have become more frequent and more violent in recent years.

Equipped with specialist sprinklers and anti-hail nets, the new methods are vastly more expensive than before -- with investments of around 100,000 euros ($107,000) a hectare compared with 30,000 euros previously.

For now, the industry remains heavily dependent on EU subsidies -- amounting to 12 million euros a year until 2020 -- although the farmers hope they can go it alone after that.

Part of the strategy is to target new markets, particularly China, which has become an avid consumer of French food and wine in recent years.

But it's Europe that remains the key market -- consuming some 90,000 tonnes of prunes in  year.

"That's the one we have to conserve," said Pomies.

The massive investment is a huge gamble for the region and a test of whether French traditions can adapt to modern competition.

"It's like going from amateur racing to Formula One," admits Leger. "We don't know if we can do it."

arabstoday
arabstoday

Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

plumping up shrivelled market for frances famed prunes plumping up shrivelled market for frances famed prunes

 



Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

plumping up shrivelled market for frances famed prunes plumping up shrivelled market for frances famed prunes

 



Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Jordanian woman reveals her project

GMT 00:46 2017 Saturday ,11 November

Jordanian woman reveals her project
Arab Today, arab today Visit Jamaica for more than just sun

GMT 09:45 2017 Tuesday ,21 November

Visit Jamaica for more than just sun
Arab Today, arab today Keep kids busy at Thanksgiving gatherings

GMT 11:14 2017 Friday ,10 November

Keep kids busy at Thanksgiving gatherings
Arab Today, arab today UN warns of conflict in Gaza

GMT 08:39 2017 Tuesday ,21 November

UN warns of conflict in Gaza
Arab Today, arab today Missouri problem mirrors woes

GMT 06:46 2017 Tuesday ,21 November

Missouri problem mirrors woes
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Australian academic's book pulled

GMT 15:20 2017 Monday ,13 November

Australian academic's book pulled
Arab Today, arab today May under Brexit pressure at EU reform summit

GMT 02:14 2017 Saturday ,18 November

May under Brexit pressure at EU reform summit
Arab Today, arab today Delhi half-marathon to go ahead

GMT 03:51 2017 Saturday ,18 November

Delhi half-marathon to go ahead
Arab Today, arab today The history of solar eclipses

GMT 05:16 2017 Sunday ,20 August

The history of solar eclipses
Arab Today, arab today VW says will invest over 34bn euros

GMT 07:19 2017 Tuesday ,21 November

VW says will invest over 34bn euros
Arab Today, arab today Driverless, electric future just round

GMT 02:45 2017 Monday ,20 November

Driverless, electric future just round
Arab Today, arab today Fedra happy for “Between Two Worlds” success

GMT 09:23 2017 Saturday ,18 November

Fedra happy for “Between Two Worlds” success
Arab Today, arab today paObama climate envoy slams Trump's rejection

GMT 16:04 2017 Friday ,17 November

paObama climate envoy slams Trump's rejection

GMT 12:15 2017 Friday ,17 November

Mona Abdel Ghany increased artistic activities

GMT 11:15 2017 Thursday ,16 November

Angola oil boss sacked by father's protege

GMT 18:41 2017 Friday ,20 October

Designer Aql Faqih aspires to innovation

GMT 11:38 2017 Wednesday ,15 November

Unloved vultures fight for their survival

GMT 11:49 2017 Thursday ,17 August

Egyptian artist presents new collection of designs

GMT 00:54 2017 Monday ,20 November

Mideast in danger as London explores

GMT 03:12 2017 Saturday ,18 November

Prince's vision spurs new Cornwall village

GMT 17:12 2017 Monday ,07 August

Al-Shawaifi reveals secrets of total solar eclipse

GMT 16:53 2017 Tuesday ,05 September

Youssra depended on colored foam
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
 
 Arab Today Facebook,arab today facebook  Arab Today Twitter,arab today twitter Arab Today Rss,arab today rss  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday
بناية النخيل - رأس النبع _ خلف السفارة الفرنسية _بيروت - لبنان
arabstoday, Arabstoday, Arabstoday