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France: The ready-to-eat fresh fruit and vegetables sector threatened with extinction

With this year's historic drought and the strong rise in production costs, climate change is being felt more and more in the agricultural sector. The French union of manufacturers of ready-to-eat fresh produce (SVFPE) has warned of the risk of extinction of the French sector of ready-to-eat fresh fruit and vegetables, along with its practices and know-how, because of the lack of sufficient remuneration for the producers and processing companies. In one year, 10% of the producers have stopped their activities. With the current additional costs, some have already given up planting salads or vegetables this year, preferring to turn to other types of productions. 

SVFPE is therefore calling on the responsibility of retailers to work on a plan to increase the value of their products in order to allow producers to regain "confidence" through the price of their production in the face of increasingly frequent climate hazards and cost increases, some of which are structural.

The professionals are also calling on the public authorities to implement actions as quickly as possible to save the sector as part of an agricultural and agri-food resilience plan. The upstream and downstream of the sector need concrete measures and support in terms of crop protection, research, innovation, and investment to promote the competitiveness of a sector that must perpetuate its contribution to food sovereignty. 

An unprecedented context of extreme weather phenomena and spectacular cost increases
The sector has been faced with an accumulation of unpredictable weather phenomena, including this year's intense droughts for example, in addition to the generalized increase in costs at both industrial and agricultural levels. The energy crisis and explosion of electricity costs are part of the inflationary trend that has been affecting other areas as well for several months (fertilizers, raw agricultural materials, labor, packaging, transportation).

Electricity prices have increased by 40% during the first eight months of the year (source: ADEPALE, September 2022), and prices should see a 200% to 700% increase in early 2023, depending on the level of coverage and contracts of the farms and companies. The drought and watering restrictions have caused water stress on crops with direct consequences on the quality and quantity of salads and vegetables for the processing companies, and breakage rates of 20% to 50% for the entire sector in August and part of September, depending on the type of products and the production basins, with lasting consequences on yields for the next two to three months. 

Not becoming dependent on vegetable imports: -10% of producers in one year
Given the urgency of this unprecedented context, only the solidarity of the retail and catering professionals will help processing companies ensure sufficient remuneration for French producers to maintain their activities and ensure the sustainability of the sector while continuing the agroecological transition. The number of producers has already dropped by 10% in a year, and the cultivated areas for the sector were reduced by 4.5% between 2019 and 2020. This phenomenon could accelerate this year with producers stopping their activities and turning to other crops.

Essential revaluation for the sustainability of the sector
The sector is directly threatened, which is really nonsense at a time when everyone agrees on the importance of consuming more fruit and vegetables daily and the importance of preserving France's food sovereignty.

The current challenge is to support an exemplary contractualized sector that contributes to the economic activity of the areas, the maintenance of landscapes and biodiversity, and to the food balance of the French population. The 2023 negotiations, which are about to begin with retail and catering partners, will be decisive.

Products that are popular among consumers and contribute to a balanced diet 
An average of 110,000 tons of salads and other vegetables are prepared and packed each year for out-of-home catering and retail in order to meet the expectations of French consumers. In 15 years, French people have increased their home consumption by 20%. In 2021, 285 million bags were sold in France.

Pre-cut, sorted, washed, and dried, the ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables are consumed all year round and contribute to the nutritional balance of the French by easily increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in their diet, as claimed by 79% of the buyers themselves.

For more information:
adepale.org


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