Several causes combine to explain the negative trend in the production of broilers in France. They show us that the producers are not responsible. They are above all the victims of distortions of competition accepted by the Brussels Commission and the governments of the member countries of the Union, including France. As part of the Doha Round initiated in 2001 by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Europe had granted third countries such as Brazil and Thailand export quotas for so-called “brined” poultry, because they contained an addition of salt. This trick allowed them to be considered as semi-processed products, benefiting from reduced customs tariffs. Then, the enlargement of the single market to the countries of central Europe with low labor costs has favored the development of industrial breeding in these countries, starting with Poland. At the same time, nations like Belgium and the Netherlands have taken advantage of the cost advantage that the ports of Antwerp and Amsterdam give them in terms of importing poultry feed and exporting their meat.
Gifts made to Ukraine to sanction Russia
As if that were not enough, Europe, in order to sanction Vladimir Putin’s Russia, had in 2014 stopped its exports of poultry and other agricultural products to Russia and signed a free trade agreement with Ukraine to allow to this country to increase its agricultural exports to the European Union. This agreement included, among other things, an annual export quota of 64,000 tonnes of boneless chicken meats with low tariffs. Since then, via a technical trick, bone-in chicken breasts have been added with even lower customs tariffs. Now Ukraine can export some 140,000 tonnes of poultry per year at low tariffs to Europe. This quota is in addition to the 311,000 tonnes granted to Thailand and the 302,000 tonnes granted to Brazil in previous negotiations which refer us to “cured” poultry.
We should therefore not be surprised by the constant increase in imports of poultry meat into France since the beginning of the current century. This is the result of negotiations led by the European Commission to which France has never opposed under the successive presidencies of Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron. At the same time, exports of French chickens to countries in the Near and Middle East rose from 25% in 2010 to 8% in 2019. Previously, these exports benefited from “refunds” which have been progressively abolished within the framework of the the WTO.
89% of consumers prefer French poultry, but …
According to an OpinionWay survey conducted in 2019, 89% of French people say they prefer French poultry rather than imported products. But we also know that standard imported poultry costs half the price of that produced in France, as imports have been favored by the free trade agreements mentioned above. For poultry produced in France, when the same cut piece of identical weight from standard chicken is worth € 1, that of the piece produced under label is worth € 2 and that of organic chicken € 3. As a result, when shopping in-store, it is often the price displayed on the shelves that determines the act of purchase for a majority of consumers.
Faced with all these uncertainties induced by the market, Jean-Michel Schaeffer, poultry farmer in Alsace and president of the Interprofession, nevertheless affirms that he wants to “give citizens answers to citizens’ expectations”. In the pact it proposes, the Interprofession asks for “compulsory labeling for a clear identification of the origin of poultry; aid to accelerate the development of production systems and a period of 5 years to promote French excellence ”. In this context, the interprofession puts forward a few objectives which can be summarized as follows: meet all the expectations of all circuits; access to natural light for 50% of poultry; 100% of farms committed to improving good practices; continued reduction in the use of antibiotics after reducing them by 60% in fifteen years; maintaining family farms, knowing that a French breeder receives an average of 40,000 poultry on his farm compared to 3 times more on average in European Union member countries and 50 times more in factory farms in countries such as Brazil and France. ‘Ukraine.
Duck breast victim of restaurant closures
In 2019, the French consumed 1.90 million tonnes of poultry, tied with Germany and behind the United Kingdom which totaled 2.23 million tonnes. 73% of the poultry consumed in our country were chicken, the turkey occupying the second place with 16% ahead of the duck with 10% and the guinea fowl 1%. If the consumption of chickens has increased this year because of the confinement, the duck whose magret is mainly consumed in restaurants has seen a decline of 16% since the beginning of this year.
The figures show that the supply of poultry producers remains subject to demand. To ignore it is to lose business. Nevertheless, tells us the Interprofession, “France is the European champion in free-range chicken farming (Label Rouge and Bio). It has 20% of poultry raised in the open air, compared to only 5% at most in other European countries ”.
Whether you are a breeder or a simple consumer free to choose, better know this so as not to take each of your wishes for the global reality in the country.
Gerard Le Puill