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Economy

Fruits and Vegetables: Plan “Very Insufficient”

Translated Monday 12 September 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Derek Hanson

The 25-million-euro action plan to help growers of fruits and vegetables – mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, and nectarines – to get through the crisis, announced on August 7 by Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, “falls short” according to the gowers’ representatives.

The financial aid is divided into two programs. The first, worth 15 million euros, is intended to ease farmers’ finances by reducing their social security and financial payments. The second, worth 10 million euros, is to finance structural measures to re-organize the industry. As an example of the need for such measures, the minister pointed to the 280 growers’ organizations in France.

The aid plan does not meet the expectations of fruit and vegetable growers. Bruno Dupont, the president of the National Federation of Fruit Producers (FNPF) said: “We’re going to have disappointed people out there.” For his part, François Lafitte, the president of the Association of Southwestern Fruit and Vegetable Growers, emphasized that “We’re fed up with pretty phrases which in the final analysis don’t lead to any action.” The same thing is heard from the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA), the biggest French farmer union. Xavier Beulin, the FNSEA president, stated that “the 15 million euros freed up by the government fall short of what we expect, since the E Coli scare and the rotten summer have caused considerable losses.” Gérard Majoral, the leader of the Departemental Federation of Farmer Unions (FDSEA), stated on the La Dépêche.fr website that “these are mini-measures. Three-quarters of all farms won’t have any right to them because of European Union rules and the ceiling on aid. I’m disgusted. Twenty-five million euros for all the farmers in France? The peaches in the Pyrénées-Orientales département alone are worth 30 million euros! There are going to be more demonstrations, that’s certain.”

Tomatoes and cucumbers were hit particularly hard this Spring by the E Coli bacteria scare and the resulting consumer suspicions about those vegetables. Peaches and nectarines, the archetypal summer fruits, suffered because a bumper crop thanks to a particularly warm Spring was combined with low consumption, bad July weather having put people off eating fruit.

This morning, according to the RTL.fr website, several dozen fruit growers blocked the wholesale market for agricultural produce in Marseilles, familiarly known as the “carreau.” They were condemning the practices of some wholesalers, who buy produce abroad and “re-label” it as French produce.


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