Implications from angry farmers at Paris agricultural fair

The Eurozone’s crisis has not only monetary implications. It has also day to day implications for everyman because consumers and farmers try to bypass mass distribution in order to survive with a fair price. Let’s have a look at the booing French Presidents at Paris’ agricultural fairs. Every year it’s the same frustration and anger of farmers. It has started with François Hollande, then 2 years in a row with Macron. Hearing in part this despair, François Hollande has asked mass distribution to pay a fair price to farmers.

But apparently nothing significantly has been done because the farmers in 2019 continue to demonstrate. This anger will drive a demand for farmers to sell directly to the final customers using e-commerce platforms, or using sales direct from the farm. Although Donald Trump has put an end to the Transatlantic Partnership, the anger of the farmers regarding this treaty has turned in since 2018 to the CETA treaty with Canada and about at the same time to the Mercosur free trade agreement.

Paradigmatic shift

We assume that this clash between the symbol of power (French State) and the farmers is just the top of the iceberg of a paradigmatic shift that scratch the surface regarding the among small farmers hated agricultural free trade agreements, started with the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), then the CETA followed by the Mercosur. The CETA means that some mega agrochemical companies will be above the law and – very bitter cherry on the cake – above the government. It means that if a big agrochemical corporation wants to flood the market of the EU country X with its GMO, and that country X refuses, then the CETA will give the power to this big company to sue the country X in front of a supranational court. In that sense the grassroots food producers will be destroyed, if this kind of corporations leads the European food market.

The massacre of farmers
Each day in France 50 farms go bankrupt. According to former Minister Stéphane Le Foll, in summer 2015 between 22’000 to 25’000 farms were close to bankruptcy. This will of course affect processed grassroots, organic and regional food.

As illustrated by the angry farmers at the annual agricultural fair, annual show-off of French presidents when their popularity rate dives deep, the sector is in deep trouble. Hollande then Macron were booed by the farmers, willing to send the message that they are dying because of the small price paid by the mass distribution. In addition the mass distribution is caught between a rock and a hard place because they have to buy extra-European products. So, French products cannot be competitive with extra-European or Eastern European products. Furthermore, the ultraliberal opening to cheaper agricultural products has on the one hand helped the middle-class to buy more for less but destroyed French (and a lot of Swiss) farmers. However, according to a fresh poll, French customers by about 2/3 would agree to pay more in order to save their farmers.
It is very hypocritical that the EU has not strengthened itself beside protectionist barriers, contrary to all the big macroeconomic players (Japan, USA, China).

Some mayors and public opinion united against GMOs and junk agriculture.

In France, some villages were labeled “TTIP free area”. But short-term victory, because slyly the CETA has given an opportunity to the US agrochemical companies to use the EU-Canada treaty as a backdoor to access the European market. A lot of French mayors have put an emphasis to reject the TTIP treaty because they care of grassroots food and their farmers. Following that trend, some of these mayors backed by the civil society have continued the resistance against CETA and the Mercosur agreement.

Recently Macron expressed his caution with the Mercosur agreement, because of the pressure and reactions in the agricultural sector in France, very hostile to this agreement. This hostility is the first front French President has to deal with, the second front is that of climate change, with Brazil. Furthermore, Brasil ant the other Mercosur countries have to adhere to the objectives of Cop 21, held in Paris, and for that geographical reason, question of credibility for France in terms of sustainable development. Because recently we have seen huge fires in Amazon, the French officials want to know what are the proposals of the Brasil government in the fight against deforestation, one of the themes of the Paris Agreement, before to go further with the Mercosur agreement. We are deeply concerned by these topics, that’s why we have in our menu solutions regarding circular economy here.

Moreover on that topic of deforestation, in Switzerland, the Left wants to launch a referendum against the Mercosur agreement. Indeed, the Left is riding the discontent wave resulting by the world mobilization against the fires in the Amazon. That destruction has made the reality of profit-based economic policy visible at the expense of the environment, human rights and indigenous peoples. In the current state, the FTA’s signature with the Mercosur bloc is not possible according to the left political parties.

If the public pressure blocks this kind of free trade agreements all across Europe, the impact for Swiss farmers can be excellent. A better redistribution of the wealth is operated, the taxes on SMEs and private individuals are decreased. The nearshoring (like General Electric company taking back is offshore China’s factories) and the European protectionism allows to keep jobs in Switzerland and in the EU thus the unemployment falls, the purchasing power of households increases.

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