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Four Point Programme to Tackle French Beef Sector Concerns

09 December 2014

ANALYSIS - France has put forward a four point programme to tackle problems arising in the beef sector because of the Russian ban on exports and with the imminent loss of milk quotas in the dairy sector.

The French government said that the embargo declared by Russia on European agricultural and agri-food has caused difficulties in some markets.

The effect of the Russian embargo has also amplified, with regard to beef, with the prospect of the end of milk quotas on 31 March next year which will cause a large influx of dairy cull cows in European abattoirs.

To face these challenges, the French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll (pictured) and government have set out four priorities.

Aid to Farmers in Difficulty

To meet the economic difficulties faced by the farmers, the Minister has called on the French agricultural support service, Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA), for supported social contributions, similar to measures introduced in the fruit and vegetable sector. This will be implemented in the first envelope of the 2015 health and welfare funds of the MSA.

Prefects have been set up to create departmental committees to undertake identification of distressed farms and examine their needs. State services and MSA will ensure that for those farmers experiencing cash flow problems will be reported on and there should be staggered payment terms for all farmers in difficulty for a period of three years,

They will also establish support for those most impacted and issue social contributions from the Health and Social Action Fund of the MSA.

These measures complement the other aid measures for farmers affected by these difficulties and under consideration in the departmental units set up for this purpose. This will mean that individual requests for tax exemptions on undeveloped land can be submitted by farmers in difficult situations.

Mr Le Foll also called for a mission to be entrusted to the General Council of Food, Agriculture and rural areas to examine the cash position of beef cattle breeding farms and the causes of structural or cyclical difficulties and their fragility in order to provide appropriate responses.

European Measures

The French agriculture ministry said that the European Commission had quickly granted aid to those sectors most directly affected by the Russian embargo - fruit and vegetables, milk – but it had at this stage not made proposals for the other sectors, particularly in the meat sector.

The French Government had objected vigorously to financing through crisis reserve funds and Mr Le Foll joined with ministers from 21 Member States at the Agriculture Council of 10 November on a joint proposal submitted to the European Commission calling on it to consider other sources of funding.

The European Commission has since confirmed that emergency measures related to the Russian embargo will not be funded on the crisis reserve but on other budgetary resources.

The French government also said that it was necessary to rethink the approach to market monitoring approach and crisis prevention at European over the effect that the end of milk quotas will have on the dairy and beef sectors.

France is to put forward fresh proposals to other Member States at the next Council of Agriculture Ministers this month.

Export Development

Mr Le Foll has called on the services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (MAAF) to join forces with professionals to identify the various export markets where it is necessary to remove trade barriers and open new markets.

Through this engagement, after the reopening of the Algerian market for live cattle in October, Russia has reopened its market to European live cattle and offal, fat and meat meal.

The French government said that this commitment will be continued and expanded to reach new markets including opening markets in other Mediterranean countries and also Asian markets.

Mr Le Foll added that following the efforts of the Minister and the industry, the market for light weanlings (300kg) to Turkey is now a reality.

Development of Local Supply and Quality in Catering

The development of local supplies and quality in the catering sector has become a priority for the French consumers, who want to know the origin of food products, their production methods as well as ensuring their sanitary quality.

The French government said that this was also a way to ensure an outlet for agricultural production.

On 2 December, Mr Le Foll wrote a practical guide to all the mayors of France, the regional presidents and General Council to give them the legal tools to help in the use of local procurement in canteens.

Strict rules have been drawn up governing public procurement to ensure equal access for all providers with the absence of discrimination.

The French ministry said that local procurement can have characteristics (freshness, seasonality, limited transport, ...) that correspond to objectives of general interest recognised as legitimate by the procurement code, such as sustainable development or quality products.

The guide is also to be sent to all members of the government, as guidelines for all in procurement for official restaurants..


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