France in focus – The other D-Day: 1944 Provence landings

This week, France in Focus heads to the southern port city of Toulon, which is home to the French Navy’s main base. It was here on August 15, 1944, that the Allied invasion of southern France began. We take a closer look at just what happened and explore the various efforts being made today, 75 years later, to ensure the memory of those events lives on.

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Calanques the Stunning Fjords of Provence

The Fjords of Provence

Just east of Marseille lays the charming coastal town of Cassis, nestled at the bottom of steep, vineyard-covered hills that come almost to the sea. It’s so adorably cute that you might think you are walking into a postcard. There’s nothing better than a stroll through town followed by a bowl of fish soup or some moules-frites at one of the many restaurants that line the docks.

The setting of Cassis is dramatic. Besides those vineyards, Cap Canaille—the highest cliff in France—towers over the town on its east side. And to the west are the beautiful and rugged calanques, the so-called mini fjords of France [ . . . ]

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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.

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