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Brittany growers deal with aftermath of Ciaran:

"The challenge now is to restore everything on time"

Earlier this month, storm Ciaran unleashed winds of up to 200 km/h on Brittany, France, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Growers do everything within their reach to rebuild the greenhouses in time for the next crop.

Serious consequences
The Breton cooperative, Prince de Bretagne, reports "serious consequences" as certain communities still grapple with power outages. Additionally, heavy post-storm rains are posing challenges for both harvesting and repair efforts.

Approximately 8,000 glass panes were shattered from the glass greenhouses of the cooperative. "For three-quarters of greenhouse operators, work tools sustained damage, ranging from a few panes for some to several hundred for others," the team shares. "The majority of producers face the task of replacing between 200 and 400 panes. While there are about ten days left for conventional tomato harvesting, organic tomato harvesting is expected to last a month, with the conclusion of the season proving challenging."

Also, for the mini vegetables grown in the Prince de Bretagne tunnels, the effects can be felt. "Evaluating the impact on field products is premature. However, the damage to tunnels, particularly those housing lamb's lettuce and Christmas-season mini vegetables, is significant. Reportedly, 54% of mini-carrot and mini-beet shelters have suffered damage, likely leading to an early end to the season due to difficulties in maintaining sufficient temperature when shelters are compromised."

Also, Thomas le Bot of EARL Le Bot gives an update on the damage to farms in Plougastel after the storm hit. Wednesday, November 8, Plougastel producers met with their municipality to begin the process of taking stock of the damage and compiling compensation claims.

100% of the farms affected
Strawberry producer Thomas Le Bot reports very little damage to his own farm "thanks to the renovation work carried out 5 years ago and the installation of multi-hood plastic greenhouses. However, all farms in the municipality have been affected to varying degrees. The most significant damage concerns the glass greenhouses, which are broken, and the plastic tunnels, which have been completely bent. On the Plougastel farm, wind gusts of 175 km per hour were recorded."

"Greenhouse producers, vegetable growers, nurserymen, and horticulturists have been hit hard, with greenhouses and tunnels destroyed, and existing and future crops impacted, causing considerable damage to businesses. These findings are widespread throughout the Finistère and Côtes d'Armor departments and more localized in other areas of Brittany," according to the Brittany Chamber of Agriculture.

Time to take stock and submit files
Like all other towns in the area, the municipality of Plougastel is currently "taking stock of the damage in order to submit reports to the French Ministry of Agriculture. We are going to put together a joint file for the Plougastel and surrounding municipalities with the support of the Brittany region. We are fortunate to have a mayor who supports us and wants to get things done quickly in order to allow planting to proceed as scheduled at the end of November. Some farmers are not insured for their tunnels, so the agricultural disaster plan is a necessity."

Lack of materials?
"We have counted almost 23,000 broken tiles in glass greenhouses, which is the equivalent of 23 semi-trailers of glass tiles. For the repair work, there is now concern about the availability of materials, mainly glass. The entire manufacturing process is currently right on schedule. Fortunately, greenhouse builders are making it a priority to send assembly teams to the affected operators. Dutch crews are already on site to restore the damage."

Impact on the 2024 harvest
"This situation is bound to have an impact on the next harvest," explains Thomas Le Bot. "By the time all the damage has been repaired, some people will be planting late. There will inevitably be less fruit and vegetables in production since there will be fewer surface areas planted. But farmers are going to help each other out, and we are all going to roll up our sleeves. Next year will certainly be a year of transition before returning to normality for the 2025 campaign. Regarding the situation on the market, Plougastel strawberries are a product in great demand, so we must not allow the lower supply to push prices upwards."

Organic foil greenhouses
Corentin Achille grows organic vegetables in Pleubian, in the Côtes d'Armor region, where the storm shredded the tarpaulins on parts of his farm's greenhouses. Corentin is distressed to see his lamb's lettuce and spinach now in the open air.

"As far as my crops are concerned, part of them has been destroyed because the tarpaulins are gone, and part of them won't be much longer. The last problem is that I need to plant crops, but I can't because I can't go to the field where there are more tarpaulins, and there it's full of water, and they'll be cold too, so there's no point. There are materials to be ordered and received, and we'll have to find time slots with good weather to put the tarpaulins back on. It's going to take some time. For the moment, we're doing the work because our aim is to produce as quickly as possible, but we're hoping to get something from the State and or at any rate to be declared a disaster and get insurance support as well", he shared to a local publication.

Tomato greenhouses
In Pleubian, under Kevin Thépaut's 3-hectare greenhouse, shards of glass littered the aisles, and rows of tomatoes were ruined.

"The tomatoes are unfit for consumption, so they will have to be destroyed. There could be a small piece of glass inside. I can no longer supply the plants with water, so the tomatoes will be soft and unmarketable... The first thing we're going to do is pick up all the pieces by hand, big and small because if we don't, it's all going to stay in the next crop. I've started to contact my supplier, who's going to change the tiles, but a lot of glass greenhouses have been affected. I hope that the work will be done quickly, but that's no guarantee."

"The challenge now is to restore everything on time, to find the people to do the work quickly, in order to reestablish the current crops, ensure those of 2024, and preserve the seedlings for the spring harvests. The situation is serious, but fortunately, we still have quality potential in the greenhouses and in the fields! We need solidarity and support at all levels, customers, state services, elected officials", the team with Prince de Bretagne shares. "We will not be able to rebuild everything overnight, but Breton market gardeners are mobilizing to repair their work tools as quickly as possible and thus be able to plant again at the beginning of December 2023."