In the Aligre market, the paradox of seasonal fruits

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 08:47 AM

‘It’s too early for apricots’: At Paris’ Aligre market, responsible consumers look warily at strawberries and stone fruits ripening earlier after the heat wave of early May.

“I haven’t bought strawberries yet, I’ve seen them coming to the shelves, but for me it was not yet the season. With cherries, you also need to wait a bit, ”explains 35-year-old Marianne, who works in the neighborhood.

Frans, 64, retired from the fashion industry, agrees. “I buy instinctively. Apricot is too early,” she decides, explaining that she refuses to fill her basket with fruits from Spain – “too many pesticides” – and prefers to “eat local and seasonal”.

Behind his stand, Mohand shakes his head. “These fruits are there because they are good, they are ripe,” grumbles the seller.

“This year,” explains Sibylla Costa, a 54-year-old vendor, twenty of whom work in this Parisian market, “we saw a lot of fruit arrive very early. My apricots were brought from Roussillon, I tried them, chose them, they are delicious. She holds out the perfect fruit, still slightly tart and full of juice, with tender flesh.

“Now is the time to eat those fruits,” she sighs.

André Bernard, president of the Chamber of Agriculture of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, explains this paradox of fruits, “when the season comes” faster than consumer knowledge: “We use very climate-sensitive products. We had temperatures worthy of the end of June, combined with a full moon event that favors a push, in the context of inflation.”

A terrible cocktail for growers who can’t store fresh produce, as well as gardeners, where “at the end of the chain, strawberries, asparagus or cherries are up to 30% cheaper than in recent years,” he says.

– Biological clock and pedagogy –

As in the Aligre market, where France tries not to “buy too much”, dialogue is difficult in direct sales in rural areas. “We refused to buy a tray of strawberries for my son because they were 50 cents more expensive than in the supermarket when we cut prices,” says Mr. Bernard, a farmer from Vaucluse.

However, there are ways to “shop smart,” says Interprofession Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (Interfel), which offers on its website a weekly €35 basket prepared with nutritionists, with groceries at the moment.

“We need to link the biological clock of the consumer to the clock of the farmer in his field,” pleads Daniel Sautre, secretary general of Interfel, pointing to the contradictions of a discourse that advocates “quality and local, when twenty years later we are gone with 65% of national production on our plates up to 50% fruit and vegetables, of which France is the 4th European producer.

At the moment, competition in the wallet is fierce, he notes. According to a survey conducted by Ipsos in April for the E. Leclerc Observatory of New Consumption, seven out of ten French people say they “regularly deprive themselves of fruits and vegetables because they are too expensive.”

“You have to be educated: a full tank of fuel for 120 euros is the equivalent of a family of four eating fruits and vegetables for a month.” So, to support French production, he calls for “smart eating” and, from today, for strawberries and apricots.