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Bad weather hurts French vines, tourism

Mildew is flourishing on French vines, farmers are expecting grain crops to suffer and tourists are staying away from holiday hotspots after weeks of wet and cold weather across much of France.
/ Source: Reuters

Mildew is flourishing on French vines, farmers are expecting grain crops to suffer and tourists are staying away from holiday hotspots after weeks of wet and cold weather across much of France.

In the Bordeaux wine-growing region, most producers have been affected by torrential rain throughout May, June and July.

"There will certainly be some loss of harvest," said Jean-Claude Avenard, a wine official at the chamber of agriculture in Bordeaux.

"Unfortunately we've had two months of rain ... We hope that the weather will be better in August so we can save the harvest. It's the same for everyone, for the potato and tomato crop too."

Mildew attacks the leaves of the vine before spreading to the grapes, where it causes rot.

The quality of the 2007 wine will depend on the weather for the rest of the season. But Avenard said it will probably not be as good as the exceptional wine of 2005 or the high quality crop last year.

The unseasonably miserable weather has also damaged other crops, boosting grain prices to record highs.

In some areas, tourism is suffering too. France is the world's top tourist destination, attracting 76 million visitors a year, more than 90 percent of them from Europe and the United States.

"If the situation does not improve, the season could be really bad," said Maria Deurre, secretary of the camping and caravanning union of the Perigord region in southwestern France.

"Most campsites have seen a drop in business. Some people are canceling, others only stay two or three days and leave for Spain or the Cote d'Azur if they don't like the weather," she told Sud Ouest daily.

After an exceptionally warm March and April, May was damp and June soaking.

In western France the rains beat several records, with 159 mm (6.3 inches) of rain falling in the Brittany town of Brest last month, against a previous record of 144 in June 1997.

July has been little better, with snow falling at unusually low altitude in the Alps and bands of rain sweeping the country, but forecasters predict a sudden surge in temperatures across much of France for the July 14 holiday weekend.