why the anger of farmers additionally targets mass distribution | EUROtoday

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Since the beginning of the farmers' protest motion, mass distribution has been usually focused. They criticize him particularly for not respecting the Egalim legal guidelines, a sequence of texts meant to ensure the earnings of agricultural producers within the face of the vagaries of uncooked materials costs and the dominant place of buying facilities. Explanations.

Pieces of picket pallets, stacked bales of hay and flames in the midst of dozens of stopped tractors displaying slogans like “let us work”, “children we dream of it, adults we die”. If this scene has grow to be nearly common for the reason that begin of the farmers' protest motion on a number of French roads, it additionally happened in entrance of the strategic facilities of large-scale distribution.

From January 24, demonstrators focused the Lactalis manufacturing facility in Domfront, in Orne. On January 28, it was the flip of the Système U buying middle in Vandargues, in Hérault, to be stormed. On Wednesday January 31, the Confédération paysanne, the third agricultural union in France, categorized on the left, as soon as once more put in a filter barrier in entrance of a Carrefour buying middle within the Toulouse suburbs, and blocked a logistics platform for recent Leclerc merchandise in Bouches- du-Rhône, which usually serves round 70 shops.

“We want large retailers and manufacturers to share their margins as best as possible and to pay farmers the right price,” argues Laurent Thérond, spokesperson for the Vaucluse Peasant Confederation, to AFP.

At the identical time, on social networks, a parody kidnapping alert has been circulating for a number of days, calling for folks to “search” for the high-profile Michel-Édouard Leclerc, president of the strategic committee of the Leclerc grocery store chain. “EMAIL [pour Michel-Edouard Leclerc] disappeared in the midst of a crisis in the agricultural sector. If you have information, notify the media. Particular point: MEL circumvents the Egalim law by going through foreign purchasing centers so as not to pay farmers the right price”, we will learn, in a publication shared by the Intercéales group, representing cereal farmers.

“Insufficient” Egalim legal guidelines

Non-compliance with these “Egalim laws” is on the coronary heart of farmers' complaints. Theoretically, these three texts, promulgated in 2018, 2021 and 2023, intention to ensure farmers part of their earnings by fixing the costs of agricultural uncooked supplies throughout industrial negotiations between distributors and their suppliers. In different phrases, when the value of uncooked supplies will increase for producers, gross sales costs to mass retailers should additionally rise.

“The idea of ​​this law is to limit the price war between the distribution giants, which is often to the detriment of operators,” explains Yolande Piris, college professor on the University of Southern Brittany and specialist in large-scale distribution. “Because we must not forget that distributors and manufacturers are in a competitive market logic. Their whole interest is therefore to seek the lowest possible prices.”

“In theory, this Egalim law should also allow farmers to have more weight in commercial negotiations,” continues the specialist. “Because the balance of power is always in favor of the distributors in the negotiations. Farmers are faced with a concentration of only four or five distribution giants, overpowering, who demand the lowest possible prices. They therefore often do not have no choice but to give in to pressure. If they don't sign, they don't sell their production.”

But six years after the first Egalim law, this safeguard has not proven itself, assert the agricultural unions. “These laws have helped protect the income of farmers,” welcomes Patrick Bénézit, vice-president of the FNSEA, the bulk agricultural union, in La Croix. “But we are far from having gone to the end of the logic. Often our sales prices to manufacturers remain lower than our production costs.”

Same remark for Jordy Bouancheau, member of the Young Farmers (JA): “We noticed an increase in our selling prices, but at the same time our costs have skyrocketed – energy, fertilizer, salary costs… And if the Egalim law had been fully applied , we should have seen an increase proportional to this outbreak. But this is not the case.”

In recent weeks, an emblematic case has illustrated the problems surrounding the Egalim laws. In January, the agri-food giant Lactalis chose to apply the same purchase price for milk as in 2023 – 405 euros per thousand liters – without taking into account the increase in production costs. Dairy producers went into a standoff, with several weeks of demonstrations.

European purchasing centers to reduce the bill

If this law struggles to guarantee farmers' income, it is above all “because it is complex to implement, but also to control”, explains Yolande Piris.

Also at issue are European purchasing centers – organizations intended to negotiate the prices of the same food and non-food products for several distributors – regularly accused of circumventing regulations to drive prices down. In 2016, the Leclerc brand launched Eurelec, a joint purchasing center with the German Rewe, based in Brussels. For its part, Système U joined the German Edeka and the Dutch Picnic within the Everest purchasing center, located in the Netherlands. Carrefour created Eureca in Spain for all its European subsidiaries.

These plants are supposed to comply with Egalim laws for their products intended for the French market. But, in practice, “we have received feedback according to which distributors who rely on these purchasing centers do not apply the law”, denounces a senatorial report on the topic printed in October 2023.

On the facet of producers and distributors, we level the finger at a serious perpetrator on this race for low costs: inflation. Driven particularly by the conflict in Ukraine, meals costs have jumped by 20% on common in two years. For months, Emmanuel Macron's authorities had referred to as for retaining costs as little as attainable to protect the buying energy of the French.

“A year ago, we were still asked to launch an anti-inflation basket. The job of a retailer is to put on the shelves the products that the French want to buy. And they want to eat French products , but at the same price as those imported”, also insists on condition of anonymity, the representative of a distribution brand, to the newspaper Le Monde, denouncing contradictory injunctions.

The hunt for sanctions is on

Faced with the farmers' protest movement, the government is gearing up to put pressure on distributors and manufacturers. On Friday, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal accused three companies of violating the Egalim laws without naming them, promising to sanction them very heavily.

The Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire announced on Wednesday that he would strengthen controls on European purchasing centers and double those on distributors, in order to better enforce the Egalim law. “I do not want farmers' income to be the adjustment variable in trade negotiations,” assured the minister on CNews and Europe 1. “I’m right here to regulate, to pronounce sanctions if the controls present that there’s certainly had an infraction”, he indicated, recalling that “in the event of proven non-compliance with the Egalim law”, firms “will be heavily sanctioned, up to 2% of turnover”. Threats which ought to weigh on the industrial negotiations between producers and merchants of client merchandise, which should finish in the present day.