The Lot nut sector in crisis: “We are in a good mood”, confides a nut grower

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This is unheard of. For the first time several tons of walnuts have not been sold and remain in the hands of farmers, especially Lotois. Sales difficulties, very low prices and strong international competition… An entire sector is in danger.

“The sector is experiencing an exceptional crisis,” regrets Carmen Vilhena De Castro, project manager at the professional union of walnuts, kernels and walnut oil of Périgord. This year, and for the first time, several tons of walnuts produced in France have not been sold and remain in the hands of walnut growers. Usually, in December, there is nothing. But the market is too crowded there and the nuts are not sold. Never seen.

However, the season had started well. In 2022 we almost reached 50,000 tons of walnuts produced. Usually, this figure approaches 38,000 tons. All the lights were green. But in the end, overproduction is not good news. Between sales difficulties, very low prices and strong international competition, the entire French sector is under threat. In the Lot, concern is growing.

Significant global production

First of all, the industry is facing global overproduction. Chile, China, California… walnuts arrive from all over the world and invade the French market. “Chinese production has reached a record level: more than one million tons. And these are products that are coming to us,” says Laurent Perrier, walnut producer in Saint-Michel-de-Bannières, member of the AOP Noix union. du Périgord and president of Promonoix. Especially since these nuts are not subject to the same rules as appellation nuts, such as those from Périgord. “The gap is too big. Here we are deprived of product processing, we have environmental constraints, we have to produce walnuts of excellent quality… And Europe lets us in with walnuts that have no constraints,” says Laurent Perrier. Without questioning these products, he simply would like the rules to be the same for everyone.

“Until now we were able to export to Italy or Spain…The latter took 25,000 tons from us, while today they themselves produce 20,000”, sighs the owner of 40 hectares. Therefore, supply is greater than demand. The price is plummeting. The traders have failed to sell and the nuts remain on the farms.

Storing Nuts?

“Immobilization is expensive. Nuts have to be stored in cold rooms, at a certain temperature,” says Carmen Vilhena De Castro. Costs that will weigh on farmers’ budgets. Between the price of electricity going up, irrigation going up 200%, or production costs exploding, nut farmers aren’t getting out. And above all the risk of storage: stopping the next harvest. In September, the walnuts will come out of the refrigerators. And the new production will be added to them. “We hope to get a small harvest,” says Laurent Perrier.

So some farmers wonder if they really need to store nuts and sometimes think about throwing them away. But to avoid this, “market withdrawal operations” can be carried out. This makes it possible to donate to associations, such as Restos du Coeur or Secours Catholique. “With the Promonoix cooperative, that’s what we are doing. We will be paid by FranceAgriMer at a very low price, but we prefer this rather than throwing them away,” says the nut grower.

“We are facing a wall”

“I’m 50 years old, I never imagined it would come to this. Our morale is low. A few years ago we were a production that was doing very well. wall, it’s strange,” says the farmer. And he continues: “Let’s hope that the crisis doesn’t last too long. Many farms that live on walnuts will not be able to withstand the shock”.

So, to raise the bar, nut farmers invite people to eat nuts. “It is certain that walnuts are not a basic necessity, but if every Frenchman ate 4 or 5 walnuts a week, our problem would be solved,” says Laurent Perrier. The project manager, Carmen Vilhena De Castro, goes further: “It is an excellent product for your health! In salads, desserts… there are many ideas to use the product. So eat the nuts, and especially the nuts of the Périgord! Before buying Chilean and Californian, it is better to buy local”.

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