Can The French Still Afford To Eat Their Own Food?

Aside from wine sales, the French agricultural sector is struggling to compete with cheaper, more intensively-farmed goods from overseas—are French people finding it difficult to buy French food?

France is incredibly protective of its agricultural sector—it has been the sticking point between France and the U.S. in the negotiation of their new trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  President Donald Trump has been threatening to increase tariffs on French food as a result of France not agreeing to include the agricultural sector in the trading agreements (France wants only non-auto “industrial goods” included and specifically not meat, fruit or wine).

Part of the problem is that France is resistant to allowing food to be mass-produced or intensively farmed; it wants to preserve the traditional ways of farming, of which it is proud. This means though, that food is much cheaper when it is produced by farmers in other European countries who don’t adhere to as strict agricultural standards as the French.

Christiane Lambert, chairwoman of the French Farmers’ Union reported in The Times, that President Emmanuel Macron’s approach to agriculture was pricing French food out of the market. “He told us to go upmarket but in the first six months of this year we imported a lot more poultry from Poland and Germany because it is cheaper,” she said. It has come to the point when French people cannot afford to buy their own food.

The deficit to the French economy is about €300 million, but many believe it’s a worrying sign and a marker of the health of the agricultural sector in general—even French cheese is suffering as consumers are increasingly turning to cheese from Ireland or the Netherlands (the growth appears to be in more “industrially-produced” cheeses for pizza toppings).

The only part of the food and drinks sector which is buoyant is the alcohol industry, where sales of wine and cognac are still far outselling imports, notably due to a huge increase of sales in the U.S and China of French wine. The French government reported in May that this success might be masking a more dire warning for the French agricultural sector in general.

Source FORBES: Can The French Still Afford To Eat Their Own Food?

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