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Until the early 2000s, it was the tobacco capital of France. It is known for its quays alongside which the tobacco barges were previously moored. When the tobacco factory closed down in 2004 and production moved to Spain, the town was badly affected economically with the loss of more than 500 jobs. The surrounding countryside still contains many wooden sheds, known locally as 'sechoirs', formerly used to dry the tobacco leaves. The commune of Tonneins is largely agricultural, the principal crops now being maize, rapeseed and sunflowers.