The food industry is one of the largest industrial sectors in France, and revenue grew 2.3% last year to reach €160.9bn. According to ANIA figures, it is also the leading industrial employer, with 13,000 businesses employing about 495,000 workers.
However, as household incomes have fallen, French consumers have cut their spending on food – by 0.5% last year – and food makers are finding it increasingly difficult to pass on increased commodity costs. French food production decreased 1% in 2012 and about 3,900 people in the sector lost their jobs.
The number of food companies that fail each year has increased too, to 297 last year, up more than 20% from 247 a year earlier.
In addition, the country’s importance as an exporter has been eroded over the past decade. Ten years ago, France was the second biggest food exporter in the world behind the US, but in 2012, it slipped to fifth position, overtaken by Brazil. The Netherlands and Germany round out the top five.
The organisation said that margins have been squeezed in the sector, to reach a record low of 22.4% - 14 percentage points lower than in 2008.
In a statement, ANIA president Jean-René Buisson said it was a matter of urgency to reverse deflationary pressures on the food industry.
“The only possible solution is to restore the concept of fair prices, to encourage research and innovation, to preserve jobs in our companies and put the consumer back at the centre of the equation," he said.
The organisation said that ‘without concrete action’ 5,000 more jobs in the sector could be at risk in the coming months.