Drought horror hits France with driest spell since 1959 as 90 departments on alert

Ukraine: Wheat fields appear to be set on fire in Kharkiv

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A number of records have been broken in France in recent weeks due to the latest weather patterns. The first relates to this July being the driest in more than half of century.

Christian Veil, a Climatologist at Météo-France, told AFP: “On average over France, eight millimetres of rain fell between July 1 and 25.”

This, he added, was a “huge deficit of rainfall”.

The number of departments with restrictions on water use makes another record.

The Ministry of Ecological Transition said 90 out of 96 French departments have limited certain water uses.

Only Aisne, Ariège, Corrèze, Hauts-de-Seine, Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis have not imposed limits – yet.

The current flow of the Loire river is currently 121 cubic metres per second.

This falls far short of the 475 figure at the beginning of this month.

The implications of this are huge not just for France but for the whole of Europe.

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France is the EU’s largest wheat exporter, exporting around half of its 35million tonnes of its annual production.

It is considered “a reliable fallback in Europe”, according to commodities broker Kona Haque.

Less reliable now, however, which is a serious problem given the insecurity of wheat supplies from Ukraine.

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Laurent Badin, commercial director of Maïsadour, the leading maize collector in the south-west, said: “For non-irrigated maize producers, we think that we will lose between 30 and 40 percent of production with the combination of drought and heat.”

In order to ensure water use restrictions are being followed, the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) has been mobilised to carry out checks.

Loïc Obled, the body’s director general, said: “Since the start of the drought orders at the beginning of the summer, the OFB has carried out 1,400 controls, with compliance rates of 80 to 90 percent.”

The drought has not only prompted food shortage fears but has also heightened concerns over fires.

Two fires destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest in Gironde earlier this week.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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