In a statement released yesterday (19 September), the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs said that the proposed legislation from the National Assembly is a “betrayal” of an extensive consultation process with the food sector that formed part of the government’s review of the food industry, Etats Généraux de l’Alimentation (EGA).
The text had already been sent back to the lower house for re-examination by Members of Parliament. In this latest development, the Committee on Economic Affairs expressed frustration at the “intransigence” shown by government ministers throughout the process.
"The government and its majority have left no other choice," said the Commission, chaired by Senator Les Républicains Sophie Primas.
‘New world’ is ‘lagging behind’
According to Primas, the government’s approach showed the “new world” touted by President Emmanuel Macron is “lagging behind” in its failure to protect the interests of weaker players in the food supply chain.
“The majority [La République En Marche!] LREM achieves the feat of adding new constraints that will weigh heavily on farmers, but also on French manufacturers, the catering sector and local authorities,” the Committee argued.
The Commission accused the LREM majority of having "forgotten the main point during the debates: to improve the agricultural income".
“These new provisions, whose constitutionality is sometimes uncertain, will further increase producer expenses… Everything indicates that this text will have no positive effect on their income.”
In particular, the proposals fail to afford farmers "the right to rely on indisputable indicators for the construction of their price” due to the intervention of the L'observatoire de la formation des prix et des marges (OFPM).
Senator's denounced a text that it suggested may ultimately increase the imbalance in the food supply chain, to the detriment of farmers and manufacturers. "The Senate can not accept such a scenario," it insisted.
The rapporteurs for the bill, Michel Raison (Les Républicains - Haute-Saone) and Anne-Catherine Loisier (Union Centriste - Côte-d'Or), called their colleagues to "continue the fight” by referring the text to the Constitutional Council.
The Commission urged the Senate to denounce the “betrayal” of EGA in a public session next week (25 September).
The Agriculture Bill, which the government nevertheless insists aims to address a perceived imbalance of power in the supply chain, was unveiled by France’s Minister for Food and Agriculture Stéphane Travert back in January.
The legislation – which is due to come effect next year – will see producers proposing contractual terms, while prices should be determined by production and market cost indicators. It also includes provision for the introduction of re-negotiation clauses for farmers and a stronger mediation service.
Additionally, the legislation proposes two highly-anticipated measures to determine retail pricing: namely lifting suggested retail prices by 10% and limiting price promotions.
The EGA bill has been described as the “first brick” of a more comprehensive road-map focusing on food policy to 2022.