AgriCensus Report

Macron promises greater farmer protection from overseas ‘threat’

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to protect EU farmers from overseas competition, using a speech Saturday to call for an increase to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget despite the impact of Brexit on its finances.

Macron called for the EU to pursue an “ambitious” Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), vowing that its budget would not be reduced as a result of the UK leaving.

CAP negotiations remain underway, with its policies and budget for 2021-2027 expected to be announced by June.

The CAP currently accounts for about 40% of the EU’s budget – or around €58 billion a year – with France the single biggest recipient, taking about 15% of that pot.

But the departure of the UK from the EU sheduled for March 29 has threatened to blow a hole in the EU’s finances, with an expected shortfall of €12-14 billion a year splitting member states, some of which have been hoping to cut their contributions.

External threats

Calling for EU unity on the issue, Macron said “the real risk facing our agriculture is not … competition between European states,” instead warning the bloc is threatened “from the outside by great powers that … consider food a commodity”.

“Today French wheat is competing on the world market with Russian or Ukrainian wheat, produced on farms of thousands of hectares, ten times larger than the largest of our farms,” Macron said.

While France’s wheat sales have managed to hold up this year, the wider EU has plummeted 20% after a poor harvest left exporters struggling to compete with lower-cost producers after a poor harvest.

And longer-term, the EU has lost market share in some of its traditional buyers as Black Sea producers have boosted production.

Macron urged the development of higher quality wheat in order to differentiate itself from, and to compete wit,h Russian and Ukrainian exports, as well as boosting its ties with Africa as a destination market.

Macron also spoke of the need for a “red line” in the EU’s trade negotiations with the US on agriculture, calling for “food sovereignty” and warning that importing genetically modified soybeans leaves EU livestock and poultry at the mercy of price volatility.

Macron’s struck a similar tone to that of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who warned last week that the EU’s increased soybean imports from the US would be under threat if meaningful progress in trade talks could not be made.

Brussels has been at pains to keep agriculture off the table in ongoing trade negotiations with Washington, although the US has been pushing to open the EU market to its exporters.

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