France’s agriculture ministry has announced an additional €60 million in emergency aid for organic farmers facing a sharp drop in organic food sales, but the sector says it is far from enough.
After several years of double-digit growth that encouraged farmers to switch to organic farming and abandon the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, the organic food market in France began to decline in 2021.
The cost of living crisis has worsened the situation. Food prices in general have risen by more than 15 percent over the past year, pushing consumers away from organic foods in favor of cheaper alternatives.
Sales of organic food in French supermarkets will fall by more than 7 percent in 2022, and by 12 percent in specialized organic stores, according to a NielsenIQ survey.
As a result, some farmers are throwing in the towel. Others are discouraged from going organic.
“If we were to lose organic producers, it would be our collective failure,” Agriculture Minister Marc Fenault said earlier this week during a visit to a dairy farm in the Oise region west of Paris, where no farms have gone organic in recent years. two years. years.
Help and support
On Wednesday, Fenault announced a 60 million euro “crisis package” on top of the initial 10 million euro “emergency aid” package agreed in late February at an agricultural fair.
He also announced measures to stimulate demand.
By the end of the year, 20 percent of ecological products will finally appear on the menu of state canteens (ministries, prisons, the army).
The target set by the 2018 “EGalim” law was supposed to be reached in 2022, but the share of organic food remained at around 6 percent.
“Let’s start by putting our own house in order, be exemplary,” Fesnau said and called on the local authorities, which finance school canteens in particular, to do the same.
The aid package has not impressed the sector
“At this stage, the state’s commitment is symbolic,” said Philippe Camburet, president of the National Federation of Organic Agriculture (Fnab).
“I am waiting to see if the local authorities will understand the example. Today they say: “Let’s pay for the gas, let’s see what’s left” in the budget.
Camburet believes that the €60 million, the terms of which will be determined at a later date, is still a long way from the industry’s cash flow problems.
“Given the scale of the organic farming crisis, we need €150 million in aid for the pork, milk, fruit and vegetable sectors alone,” said Mathieu Lancri, head of Forebio.
Pheno also emphasized the responsibility of large-scale distribution for the decline in consumption of organic products.
They are less visible on supermarket shelves than before. “And yet the recognition of the product determines its sale,” he added.
He said he would speak to supermarkets about the fact that retailers are making higher margins on organic products than on other products – which is driving up their prices.
France aims to convert 18 percent of its agricultural land to organic farming by 2027, up from 10 percent today.
Feno said the ambitious goal will be maintained.