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The unwitting winners of France’s drought: Salt farmers

Francois Durand, a French saltmaker, harvests sea salt from Le Pouliguen (West France), 5 August 2022. Due to the country’s record heatwave, salt yields have nearly doubled this year due to the evaporation seawater that’s allowed into the pans at high tides.

Despite the heatwaves and droughts that have ravaged the French countryside over the past few weeks, one group emerged as a reluctant winner: the salt farmers of the Guerande region in the northwest.

Guerande’s snowy-white Fleur de Sel, or ‘flower of salt,’ crystallizes on water’s surface and is among the finest salts available. It retails in the United States for over $100 per kilogram.

Production has skyrocketed as a result of rising temperatures and near inexistent rainfall that turbo-charged saltwater evaporation in this region.


Francois Durand, a salt marsh producer for over 20 years, said that “we’re heading toward record production.”

He said that sea salt production has been around 1.3 tonnes per saltpan over the past 10 years, but that this year it was almost double at 2.5 tonnes.

He said that he is one of few short-term climate winners, even though parts of the country are dealing with water scarcity and wildfires.


“You could also say yes. He continued. It’s obvious that it’s good news for us.

Audrey Loyer, a worker at the salt flats, stated that there have been more than 40 days without rain and light winds in a region known for its unpredictable Atlantic weather.

It’s hard work: Workers wheel barrow along the narrow mud walls, under the scorching sun, to remove sea salt from the bottoms of the pans. They use methods and tools that have not changed much in four centuries. Harvesting is done without any machinery.

Mathilde Bergier (salt producer and owner of a local shop) said that “the workers are tired.” “There hasn’t been enough rain to justify a stop at the flats.”

Bergier is also concerned about the unsustainable pace of this summer’s relentless sun. He worries that the fragile mud structures that evaporate the seawater might not be able to withstand such intense work year after year.

The region’s salt producers might wonder what to do with all that salt, especially if it continues to heat up. Reuters was told by several farmers that they had enough salt reserves to last for the next few years.

Bergier stated, “Some have already quit working this season.”

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