Postcard from... Finistère


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The Independent Online


Using the huge swathes of green seaweed that drift on to Brittany’s coastline each summer for agricultural compost is a long-standing tradition in France’s most north-westerly region.

Seaweed has added desirability as it costs nothing. But while its cost may be non-existent, it has a major drawback: the rank reek of rotting salty vegetation can carry for miles and is none too pleasant for holiday- makers or locals.

But salvation is at hand, according to a prominently placed half-page article in local newspaper Ouest-France, which indicates there has been a breakthrough.

For the first time ever a factory has been built in the region which can process the seaweed in hermetically sealed containers: hence no penetrating pong for locals to put up with, or as the local government spokesman Frank Ysnel triumphantly put it in his best public relations speak: “We have hugely reduced the olfactory unpleasantness.”

The Fouesnant factory, in the picturesque department of Finistère, has also increased its production of seaweed fertiliser from 12,500 tons to 20,000 tons a year, all of which is distributed free to farmers in a nine-mile radius. 

“It’s not the most attractive fertiliser because it contains less organic matter,” Ysnel told Ouest-France.

The cost to the public  coffers is €45 euros a ton. But with a smell-free label now attached to the fertiliser, in an area which relies heavily on tourism, it may ultimately be cheap at the price.