Biological collapse: a “crisis envelope” of 60 million euros for producers

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Faced with the “growth crisis” of organic farming, the Minister of Agriculture announced on Wednesday 17 May a “crisis envelope” of 60 million euros accompanied by measures to stimulate demand.

Falling consumption, farmers throwing in the towel, others discouraged from getting started: faced with the “growth crisis” of organic farming, the Minister of Agriculture announced, on Wednesday 17 May, a “crisis envelope” of 60 million EUR. As organic conversions slow and departures increase, “it would be our collective bankruptcy if we lost organic producers,” said Marc Fesneau of a dairy farm in the Oise.

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France aims to have 18% organic agricultural land in 2027 (compared to 10% today), a goal that seems difficult to achieve but which the minister maintained on Wednesday. In the Oise, no farms have converted to organic in the past two years. “We have farmers ready to convert but the dairies no longer want to take them,” regrets Sophie Tabary, president of Bio Hauts-de-France and producer of the Aisne.

The organic market began to reverse course in 2021 after years of double-digit growth that had prompted farmers to undertake this type of agriculture without pesticides or synthetic chemical fertilizers. But consumers, crushed by inflation (+15% over one year in April for food), are moving away from it in favor of cheaper alternatives.

20% organic in the canteens

Marc Fesneau has also promised that canteens under the responsibility of the state (ministries, prisons or armies) will finally include 20% organic products in their menu by the end of the year. The Food Law (or Egalim, 2018) had set for 2022 this goal of a minimum of 20% organic in canteens. But the organic share is limited to around 6%.

“Let’s start by sweeping in front of our door” by being “exemplary”, declared the minister, inviting local authorities – which in particular finance school canteens – to do the same. “But state canteens, armies and ministries are already close to the 20% required by the Egalim law. In our opinion, school catering is 13% organic,” Marie-Cécile Rollin, general manager of the Restau’Co network, told AFP.

“A sector that is never talked about, medical-social, hospitals, nursing homes, homes for the disabled… is less than 1%! It represents half of the meals in collective catering. If it rises to 5%, they would be 150 million euros of additional organic purchases”, estimate.

Retail in the crosshairs

“At this stage, the state’s commitment is symbolic,” Philippe Camburet, president of the National Federation of Organic Agriculture (FNAB), reacted to AFP. “I’m waiting to see if the local authorities follow suit. Today in the balance sheet they say ‘Let’s pay the gas bills and see what’s left'”. According to him, the 60 million euros, the terms of which will be defined later, are “still far from the mark” to ease the cash flow of struggling professionals. An initial “emergency aid” of 10 million euros, registered at the end of February at the Agricultural Exhibition, had disappointed… The majority agricultural union FNSEA welcomed “the revaluation of the endowment” with a statement.

The minister also mentioned the “responsibility of large-scale distribution” in the drop in consumption of organic products. The shelves are less stocked than before in organic gold “the visibility of a product makes its sale”. He also intends to “talk to large retailers” about the fact that brands have “a greater margin on organic than on other products”, helping to raise the price.

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