Guillaume Lefort combs his hands through stalks of pale green wheat, his crop stretching out behind his 19th-century farmhouse.
Clouds hang ominously overhead with predictions of rain – a welcome relief from the unseasonably high temperatures that have resulted in drought conditions and troubled France’s farmers since April.
“The recent rain has helped, every little bit helps, but it’s not enough,” says Mr. Lefort, a grain farmer who owns 860 acres of land across three farms in the Combs-la-Ville area, just south of Paris.
“The climate is my boss. Sometimes he’s good to us; sometimes he’s unfair. But each year it’s getting harder as the weather patterns become more erratic.”
Like wheat farmers across France and much of Europe, Mr. Lefort is hesitant to predict the outcome of the upcoming harvest in July and August.
His region has a large aquifer, so he thinks he’ll be OK this season, but in other parts of France the hot conditions have left soil too parched to replenish easily.
Recent storms have done more damage than good, at times destroying wheat heads and leveling corn stalks.
While French consumers can expect to see higher prices for their beloved baguette as a result of what is expected to be reduced wheat production this season, the implications of the drought stretch farther.
North Africa and the Middle East, the largest importers of Ukrainian and Russian wheat, are also the largest consumers of the French crop.
And as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to block wheat exports from the Black Sea, countries in the Middle East/North Africa region must now rely heavily on European grains to meet demands.
But as drought conditions continue, France and the rest of Europe may not be able to fill the void, leaving fragile groups at risk of supply shortages and rising food prices at a time when climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have already created food insecurity.
“Even if prices go up, the French should remember that they won’t be lacking anything. There’s no need to rush to the store and empty the shelves,” says Joel Limouzin, a livestock and grain farmer who is vice president of the French farming union FNSEA.
“But on the global market, prices are becoming exorbitant and we can expect shortages. Europe will try to manage the situation, but there will be major problems for people across the African continent.”
The troubles for French farmers began this spring, when temperatures in parts of the country skyrocketed to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.