Farmers look to EU food aid to boost meat market

Weak pork exports are hurting French farmers. [Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr]

French farmers are feeling the heat, as prices stagnate and bankruptcy threatens more and more businesses. EURACTIV France reports

A month of drought and soaring temperatures has added to the woes of France’s beleaguered agriculture sector, which is paying dearly for falling exports and stagnant pork, beef and dairy prices.

The early summer has been punctuated by spirited demonstrations, and after the “night of distress” on 2 July, farmers have organised a number of high-impact operations right across France.

Gérard Larcher, the President of the French Senate, has even asked the European Commission to step in and buy up pork reserves to alleviate the crisis and help improve the worsening humanitarian situation in Greece.

At a meeting of producers, distributors and politicians on 16 July, the Senate president said, “We need short term emergency measures to respond to the crisis”.

“It is unusual to ask for a debate in the Senate, but the situation is serious,” said Xavier Beulin, the representative from the leading agricultural trade union. “Beyond the catastrophic short term situation, there is also structural deadlock,” the farmer said, referring to Brittany, where “400 or 500 pork businesses here are on the edge of bankruptcy.”

>>Read: Moscow pork embargo causes havoc in Brussels

Falling prices are not unique to the French pork industry, which used to sell 10% of its production to Russia. Farmers across the continent are tightening their belts.

But the sustained price stagnation at the start of summer, in spite of the “bbq effect” that usually brings a spike in demand, has caused major concern.

“We are asking for transparency in labelling and a price above the global standard,” said Xavier Beulin.

A European food stamp for crisis-ridden countries

Larcher wrote to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to ask him to ramp up the EU’s food aid to Greece and make use of the large pork reserves that are pulling down meat prices.

“We have to establish a kind of French food stamp system that responds to the needs of the countries worst affected by the crisis,” the lawmaker said. In the United States, 46 million people receive aid in the form of tokens to buy food.

Guy Vasseur, the President of the French Permanent Assembly of the Chambers of Agriculture, said, “This is a good idea. Exports to Greece have fallen, and considering the high availability in the pork sector, this is a logical measure.”

>> Read: Commission will provide food and medical aid to Greece

The European Union imposed sanctions against Russia in July in response to Moscow's activities in Ukraine.

For the first time the sanctions target the most important sectors of the Russian economy: oil, banking and defence.

Under these measures, the large Russian state banks are excluded from European markets. The gas sector, on which Europe strongly depends, is not affected by these sanctions.

Russia responded to the sanctions by placing an embargo on food products from the West, which may lead to food shortages and price inflation in Russia as well as affecting the European agriculture and foodstuffs sectors.

Subscribe to our newsletters