By Gérard Le Puill
According to a note from INSEE which covers the whole of 2020, agricultural prices leaving the farm fell by -1.4% on average last year compared to 2019 while production costs were on the rise and that many fresh fruits and vegetables were destroyed due to the closure of markets, city restaurants and a sub-activity of collective catering. Vegetable prices fell by -3.2%, those of wines by -5.6% on average, but the price drop was -10.1% for quality wines benefiting from protected geographical indications.
The situation is even worse in animal production. Pig prices fell -25.7% year-over-year; those of large cattle, all productions combined, fell by -5.9%. The decrease is -1.1% for cow’s milk and it reaches -41.5% for chicken eggs. As a misfortune never comes alone, the prices of cereals and those of vegetable proteins used in livestock feed have risen significantly since the end of summer 2020, after having been abnormally low as long as the world supply. exceeded solvent demand. Between September 2020 and February 2, 2021, the price of a tonne of corn went from 165 to 210 €. A ton of soybean meal imported from Brazil cost € 465 on February 2, compared with € 320 in September 2020.
Supermarkets are still looting their suppliers
At the same time, as part of the annual negotiations on the prices of food products that will be referenced in mass distribution stores from March, the negotiators of the major brands demand from their suppliers entry price reductions of up to – 4% on certain products.
In these same stores, the average increase in food prices was + 2% in 2020 and the turnover of major brands increased by + 6.3% during the same year, due in particular to the closure of markets and restaurants. The large brands have been pursuing for months a strategy of permanent highlighting of a few promotions on a few consumer products in order to attract more customers and thus gain market share against each other. Leclerc and Carrefour compete in this area with advertising leaflets distributed in letterboxes two to three times a month.
President Macron’s double speech
Young enarque of 30 years, the current President of the Republic had recommended the looting of peasants by distributors in the report he had written in 2007-2008 for the Attali Commission, a report requested by Nicolas Sarkozy on a suggestion of Michel -Edouard Leclerc. Became President of the Republic in May 2017, Emmanuel Macron seemed to have changed his strategy by declaring during a speech given in Rungis on October 11 of the same year:
“The priority – and this is the objective of this first stage of the Estates General of Agriculture – is to ensure, as I said, that both to maintain our industrial and agricultural fabric, to be up to our food sovereignty, so that our farms can live off the price paid and can transform the sector that is theirs. And for that, price and quality are the two levers of transformation (…) We will modify the law to reverse this construction of the price which must be able to start from production costs ”.
The EGAlim law, which was to provide farmers with prices based on production costs, was passed a year later by the presidential majority. The figures that INSEE made public on January 29 on the evolution of agricultural prices over the whole of 2020 clearly show that this promise by the President of the Republic has not been kept. But this president, follower of “and at the same time”, did he have the will to keep this promise? No, because at Rungis already, the Head of State made his promise to depend on the improbable gain by the peasants of an arm with the distributors when he added in this same speech: “But this new approach would not be enough because ‘it will only be effective if farmers genuinely come together in producer organizations to influence the negotiations by taking advantage of the possibilities of competition law ”.
Saying this to the peasants amounts to not seeing that they are selling perishable products. What is more, they sell them to processors who can import the same products for the sole purpose of lowering prices in the domestic market. It is these processors who negotiate the prices of their processed products with large retailers. But apart from large firms like Lactalis for milk, or Bigard for meat, few companies obtain access prices to shelves allowing farmers to pay their fair share of added value for their work in the production of raw products. . Especially since the agrifood sector has many SMEs in our country.
The disappointment of the majority unions
Hence the disappointment expressed by the FNSEA and Young Farmers unions in a joint press release: “Even though a year ago, we had some hope in terms of buyer behavior and upward prices, we must note that bad habits are returning at a gallop (…) Producers through the FNSEA and Young Farmers have so far welcomed the tools of the EGAlim law and made every effort to ensure their proper application. It is now up to the State to take its part by very firmly sanctioning abuses, which endanger French agriculture and consequently food sovereignty that the government is calling for ”.
For the moment, the State does not sanction any “drift”. Worse still, it is whispered behind the scenes of power that France is now trying to see how not to keep the promise made to the peasants by President Macron not to “ratify as it is” the free trade agreement signed in June. 2019 between the European Commission and the Mercosur countries, which want to increase their agricultural exports to Europe. We will come back to this in our next article.