A third of farmers in France earn less than €350 per month. On a liter of milk sold at 80 cents in supermarkets, the breeder receives only 35 cents. How many times have we been outraged by this sad reality?
Since Emmanuel Macron’s first five-year term, the government has been trying to reverse the trend through the Egalim 1 and 2 laws. The latter aims to improve farmers’ incomes by taking their production costs more into account. In addition, the National Assembly voted on January 12, unanimously, another law proposed by the deputy Frédéric Descrozaille, which also tries to balance the balance of power between large retailers and suppliers.
There is an urgent need to act because the situation is no longer tenable. Even if the price of in-store food has risen sharply, following geopolitical, energy and climatic shocks, the increase in production costs borne by food product suppliers (rise in the price of fertilizers, energy and feed for livestock) is in fact much more important and threatens the sustainability of their activity.
David versus Goliath
Today, the distribution chains, united in large purchasing groups, dictate the rules on the prices paid to suppliers within the framework of an annual negotiation. It is a struggle between David and Goliath. In this context of inequality, it is necessary to act at national and European level. At the first level, a moratorium on logistics penalties, which continue to be a center of profit for many distributors, is essential – and this at least until the end of the supply difficulties. A penalty is a pecuniary sanction imposed by the distributor when he considers that the conditions of the delivery of the products do not comply with the contract, in terms of time or conformity of the products. But in these times of disruption to global supply chains, suppliers are often unable to meet delivery times and quantities, despite their goodwill.
At the second level, the European competition rules should be changed to also allow suppliers to conclude agreements on supply and thus compete with large retailers. Today, European competition policy is not consistent with the objective of the common agricultural policy, which is to guarantee a fair price for producers.
Inflation should not be used to change nothing in the face of these inequalities. The end consumer should not bear this inflation alone either, but we must manage to set fair prices for farmers in order to guarantee the survival of our agricultural system. We impose increasingly demanding environmental and quality standards on our producers, without worrying about offering them fair compensation. We also sign free trade agreements with countries that do not meet our standards for environmental and social sustainability.
The sustainability of our agricultural system is at stake because more and more farms are going out of business and fewer and fewer young people are deciding to start farming. The profession has been in crisis for years. In ten years, we have lost more than 100,000 farms in France, mainly to the detriment of the family model, which has determined our know-how for generations. It is therefore essential to try to reverse the trend by giving farmers the means to face the challenges of the climate and the market. Let’s not let the unfair and unethical practices of certain distributors jeopardize our ambition for food sovereignty.