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French Truffle Hunters Face Uneven Harvest

Marthe Delon and her truffle pig "Kiki the Goblin" searching for black truffles near Lalbenque, southwestern France
© AFP/ Pascal Pavani | Marthe Delon and her truffle pig "Kiki the Goblin" searching for black truffles near Lalbenque, southwestern France
Predictions vary for the upcoming truffle harvest in France.

French grape growers are not alone in enduring challenging weather conditions and a small crop this season.

Following an unseasonably cool spring, along with droughts, storms, and an August heatwave that has left the country facing its smallest grape harvest since 1991, prospects for the next truffle season look mixed.

The president of the French Federation of Trufficulteurs (FFT), Jean-Charles Savignac, told Wine-Searcher: “Certain places like the Aude and north of the Drôme region received plenty of water. Rain fell when it was needed and truffles will be in abundance there." 

The prospects are also bright in Aude, where the head of the region's trufficulteurs, André Giniès, said, “We had plenty of water in July and August thanks to thunderstorms, and we found many truffles."

The harvest, which generally starts in December and lasts until February, should produce between 30 and 50 tons of the subterranean mushrooms. In the best years, up to 60 tons are collected.

But the South West of France and the Mediterranean seaboard were both affected by drought this year and the truffle harvest could be affected.

Conditions were also unfavorable in the Dordogne region, the home of the much-prized black Périgord truffle and appellations such as Bergerac, Monbazillac and Montravel. "We are worried,” admitted Michel Queyroi, the president of the regional truffle association.

However, all hope may not be lost. In 2011–2012, the "black diamond" harvest turned out to be better than expected despite “bizarre weather conditions." Nationally, growers harvested 44 tons of truffles, including five tons in Burgundy, and sales reached 110 million euros ($143m).

Black truffles sell for 600 to 700 euros ($780-$911) per kilo on the wholesale market. They retail at 800– 1,000 euros ($1,040–$1,300) per kilo. Prices are not predicted to rise this year despite forecasts of an uneven harvest, which could lead to a shortage of supply.

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