Should we eat seasonal fruits and vegetables to limit energy consumption?

Advice for being energy-saving, we’ve been eating it since the beginning of summer and the colder the months, the more we are served: do not heat the four hotplates in the kitchen at the same time, disconnect the wifi before go away for the weekend, do not turn on the television if you are not watching it or do not turn up the heating to more than 19 degrees.

Sobriety could also be played out on the plate, quite simply by eating in season. If the French only swallowed broccoli or potatoes in winter and forsook a little the salads and tomatoes, the country would spend less electricity and gas. “90% of French production of tomatoes and cucumbers comes from heated greenhouses and 60% from strawberry production”, informs Laurent Grandin, president of the Interprofession of fresh fruits and vegetables (Interfel).

High consumption

Rather energy-intensive greenhouses. According to the study “Rational use of energy in greenhouses” (French Environment and Energy Management Agency), for market gardening, energy represents on average 22% of direct production costs. crop farms in heated greenhouses, compared to 11% in horticulture.

Gas is used as the main fuel on 77% of greenhouse surfaces. For bananas, the second most consumed fruit in France, and others (pear, kiwi, avocado), the “ripeners (who are in charge of ripening exported fruit) use electricity : “For transport, the banana is kept at 11-12 degrees. Once there, it needs to be matured to transform its pulp, from starch to sugar”, informs Laurent Grandin.

The change of season is now?

It won’t surprise anyone, when you need to heat up the temperature or ripen a banana, you use more energy. How to change behavior towards more eco-responsibility? A good thing according to Marie-Eve Laporte, teacher-researcher at the IAE Paris-Sorbonne and specialist in eating behavior: “Beyond ecological considerations, by eating in season, you diversify your diet, which is important. Seasonal fruits and vegetables also have more vitamins and nutrients. »

The trend did not wait for the war in Ukraine to appear, continues the specialist: “Fifteen years ago, nobody was moved to eat cherries in winter. There has been an awareness for several years on the subject and attention is once again being paid to the seasons. “It did not escape Thomas, salesman at Biocoop in Paris 9th: “There is a real expectation on the local and the seasonal products and we play on it by discovering new fruits and vegetables. Strawberries are nice, but all year round, it gets boring. »

Products at risk

The energy crisis could accelerate the movement. “The extreme sensitivity of these heated farms to the price of energy is leading or will lead to a sharp rise in their bill. Farmers will not necessarily have the possibility of increasing their price without driving away some consumers, with a risk on the volume of production,” says Patrice Geoffron, professor of economics at Paris-Dauphine University. Because the expert warns, in a period of double economic and ecological crisis, consumers will be very vigilant about the price of out-of-season products.

According to Laurent Grandin, the price of the invoice – of gas or electricity – could be multiplied up to 10 times. Therefore, eating in season could become essential, less by a change of mentality than by the reality of the bill. An even darker observation from Laurent Grandin: “Without state aid, a quarter of producers could disappear, unable to pay their energy bill.

Sovereignty or eco-responsibility?

How to go, at a forced march, towards a world where we only eat strawberries in summer and pumpkins in winter? “We have to ask ourselves questions about the sustainable cost of food. And even in terms of purchasing power, with or without an energy crisis, eating in season is cheaper. We can no longer just say “eat five fruits and vegetables a day” without worrying about the ecological or energy consequences”, points out Marie-Eve Laporte.

A less shared observation by Laurent Grandin: “Vegetables and fruit for all is a public health and food sovereignty issue. Currently, French production represents 50% of the country’s consumption in this area. We must ensure that we produce as much as possible in France. If he wants to hear the criticisms of truly typically seasonal products, such as melon or cherries for example, for others, the question seems more complex to him: “If we restricted ourselves to the seasons, there would be a colossal shortage of fruits and vegetables. And producers would be in trouble. »

And not sure that the consumer validates, he concludes: “The tomato harvest can stretch to the maximum from August to October. That’s good, but it’s only been three months – six with the greenhouses. Are the French really ready to eat tomatoes for only a quarter of the year? I doubt. Thomas, from our Biocoop, agrees: “People buy mushrooms in the fall or chestnuts, that’s good. Bananas, from January to December, is the unsurpassable blockbuster. People are increasingly ecologically and economically conscious, but there are the inevitable little pleasures. »

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