Agriculture: 2021 was a difficult year for breeders

INSEE published the provisional accounts for agriculture for the year 2021 on July 7 at 12 p.m. that of animal production only increased by 1.7% in value. But, even in the plant sectors not everyone benefits from the improvement in the situation. The latter mainly benefits cereal producers who have benefited from higher yields and prices in 2021 compared to 2020, increasing revenues by 50.9% for the production of wheat, barley and corn, and 52.9% for oilseeds and protein crops such as rapeseed, sunflower and soybeans. On the other hand, the wine harvest fell by 17.6% in volume, which lowered the value by -11.1%, despite an average price increase of +7.9% over the year.

INSEE indicates that “livestock production is decreasing in volume”. This drop is -2.1% on average. It decreases in large cattle by -3.2%, by -2.5% in pigs, by -2% in sheep and goats, by -1.3% in veal calves, by -1, 7% in poultry meat and -2% in the production of cow’s milk. Still according to INSEE, the prices of large beef cattle increased by +5.9% in 2021, those of beef calves by +6.9%, those of sheep and goats by +8.7%, those of meat poultry by +6.5%, that of cow’s milk by +4.3%. But those of pigs fell by -4.4% during the year 2021, while the prices of grain-based feed and soybean and oilseed meal were up significantly during the same year.

The effects of decapitalization concealed by INSEE

It should be added that the increase in prices for large cattle, calves, sheep and poultry comes from a reduction in supply in 2021. This is, in many cases, the result of decapitalization among breeders during the previous two years. They often sold more animals than desired in order to pay the bills. The INSEE study on the provisional agricultural accounts fails to analyze it and that is a pity. Especially since three days earlier, on July 4, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, took up the argument of Michel-Édouard Leclerc, by showing himself in favor of promotions allowing to reduce by -50% in-store prices, while the EGALIM 2 law limits them to -34%. However, to set up these promotions, the brands use imported products, which has a lasting impact on the prices paid to producers in France. This is causing disorder in a France whose Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, has also become that of “Food Sovereignty” since the appointment of Elisabeth Borne as head of government.

Following this statement by the Minister of Economy and Finance, Brice Guyau, President of the FDSEA of Vendée and milk producer declared: « While farmers and the sectors are committed to ever safer food, healthier and more sustainable, the minister under pressure from Leclerc would be ready to reconsider these commitments and this transition by undermining the provisions of the EGALIM law! Who will suffer? Those who are supposed to be defended by these initiatives, namely the consumers, who, in the long term, will only have a choice of low-end, imported products that do not respect any French production standard and are on permanent promotion. Is this the food that Leclerc and Bruno Le Maire want to offer to the French? asks Brice Guyau.

Nothing seems certain for breeders

In a joint press release published on July 5, after a meeting with Bruno Le Maire and following the latter’s « backpedaling » on his statement the day before, the FNSEA and Young Farmers unions declared in a joint press release: « After his statements from the day before, we are pleased that the Minister reaffirms his full and entire support for the measures which have made it possible to restart before the construction of agricultural prices and to sanctuary the prices of agricultural raw materials in the negotiations between industrialists and large retailers. He thus confirmed that the government would not make any changes to the principles of raising the sole price of resale at a loss by 10% and limiting promotions in volume (25%) and value (34%)”.

It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to allow the peasants to earn a decent income from their work. Because since the beginning of this year the prices of fuels, fertilizers and gas have risen sharply, especially for pig and poultry farmers who are also suffering the consequences of pandemics such as African swine fever or avian flu, while the ongoing drought is also complicating the situation for herders of herbivores such as cattle, sheep and goats.


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