Walnut crisis: the anguish of French producers who sell at a loss

“We work for nuts, that’s enough!” French walnut producers, boosted by a record harvest last year, are facing plummeting prices and are now forced to sell at a loss.

At the call of the Rural Coordination, the second agricultural union, farmers from Périgord or Corrèze set up a direct sales stand on Monday, at cost price, on the forecourt of the Saint-Lazare station in Paris, to raise public awareness. to the “crisis” of the sector.

“We can’t make it. Our production cost is around 2 euros per kilo. While we sold our nuts at 3 euros last year, we are now offered 50 cents. It’s scandalous when we see that the kilo of walnuts is found at 8 or 10 euros in the supermarket”, explains Alexandre Clare, 30, producer in Corrèze.

On the stand, bags of nuts are stacked next to bags of kernels and bottles of oil. “We brought two tons of walnuts: if we don’t sell them, we’ll throw everything away,” says Baptiste Poujade, who produces walnuts and chestnuts in Lozère.

At the origin of this crisis, the exceptional production of 2022: “we had good growing conditions and no episode of frost”, explains Alexandre Clare. Result: a production of 50,000 tonnes of nuts, against 37,700 in 2021, which suddenly inflated stocks and dropped prices.

Oranges, pomegranates and nuts for sale in a Nantes market, April 15, 2015 (AFP/Archives – GEORGES GOBET)

“In France, we consume 40,000 tonnes of walnuts per year, which could quite well be covered by last year’s production. But in 2022, we imported 12,500 tonnes of kernels, mainly from Chile and a little from California. , or the equivalent of 30,000 tons of shelled walnuts”, says Alexandre Clare.

“We want to raise consumer awareness: eat French walnuts, which have a better carbon footprint, which are produced under good conditions and which replace peanuts very well as an aperitif”, he says.

– “The panic” –

On the stand, the bags of kernels sell quickly, easier to transport than the 10 kg bags of walnuts (sold for 3 euros/kilo).

Some came especially: “I am the son of a farmer, I know how difficult it is to produce and sell. I heard that they were forced to sell at 50 cents per kilo, I find it unbearable”, declares Xavier Buffet-Delmas, 62, left with a bag of walnuts, kernels and a bottle of oil.

A walnut producer brings his harvest back to his warehouse in Nailhac, Dordogne, on October 6, 2022 (AFP/Archives - ROMAIN PERROCHEAU)
A walnut producer brings his harvest back to his warehouse in Nailhac, Dordogne, on October 6, 2022 (AFP/Archives – ROMAIN PERROCHEAU)

In France, the leading European producer of walnuts, production is concentrated in Rhône-Alpes, Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées. After a 2020-21 season where confinements had led to record consumption at home, the following year was more gloomy, as production increased by 30%.

The country exports walnuts (21,400 tonnes in 2021) but imports kernels (12,000 tonnes), according to ministry data. The competition is fierce, mainly American and Chilean. China, the world’s largest producer, consumes a large part of its production.

“I have 15 tonnes left on my hands. It’s starting to be a bit of a panic with the heat coming on”, explains Baptiste Poujade, who has installed a cold room to “save” part of his production but cannot store everything. costs “given the price of energy”.

At the beginning of May, the Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau noted a “growth crisis” in “a context of overproduction”, affirming that it was necessary “to do communication work, including with large retailers, to improve the value of the nut and destock this year”.

Producers would like above all “emergency aid” or “an uprooting premium to promote the renewal of orchards”.

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