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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Charles Beigbeder chez les affameurs

by Marie-Noëlle Bertrand

Competition Is a Deadly Virus for Agricultural Production

Translated Thursday 4 March 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

What with higher labour costs and stricter sanitary norms than in neighbouring European countries, French farmers complain of being at a disadvantage.

Will farming be driven out of France by unfair competition? The question has started to worry French farmers themselves. Because they are subjected to stricter obligations than their neighbours, they have been sounding the alarm for months. Pickers are paid € 11,32 an hour in France against € 7,80 in Spain and € 6 in Germany where social contributions are lower. Another problem is the massive arrival of workers from former Communist countries in so far as these workers can now be hired under the form of contract legal in their native countries. And so in ten years Germany succeeded in doubling its production of strawberries and in flooding European markets despite the fact that strawberries were never a native crop in Germany.

As a result hypermarkets are in a position to force prices down, and worse still, farming itself tends to relocate abroad. “Milk is a case in point,” explains Guy Vasseur, the new president of the farmers’ exchange, "whereas France is unlikely to meet its quota in 2009, Spain and the former Communist countries are sure to outstrip theirs." Farming is indeed gradually concentrating farther East. "The question of the competitiveness of French farming should be raised." he says. " if obligations must be imposed, they should be the same for all farmers.” And this does not concern labour costs only. French environmental laws are also a difficulty; for instance those concerning plant-care products, which are stricter than in other countries. To say nothing of the carbon tax.

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