Lives and Livelihoods in the Languedoc- Roussillon
Basil Howitt continues his series with the Préfet who didn’t mince his words in condemning supermarkets for the economic exploitation of local fruit farmers. Howitt also wonders whether the much-vaunted further development of tourism is a viable solu
Another “Agricultural Calamity”
It is not only the wine-producing sector of the Languedoc-Roussillon that is in crisis. The latest bombshell came through our letter boxes on 30th August when we read in L’Indépendant about the now ludicrously uneconomic margins of the peach and nectarine growers in the Languedoc-Roussillon. (The region is France’s main producer of these fruits.) In the words of one elderly peach grower in St Feliu (10 miles west of Perpignan), “in my 52 years of peach farming, this is the first year that I have not been able to balance my books.”
M. Bousiges has rolled up his sleeves and been out to see the farmers’ problems at first hand. Not only has he been conspicuously photographed working his way through a succulent peach during his visit to a fruit packing warehouse in Ille-sur-Tête; he has also boldly and bluntly declared that “It is unacceptable that the distribution sector is making its profit margins on the backs of those who are doing the work.” Good for him! This same Préfet has promised the sector his full support in their representations to both the Conseil General and the Government to have the sector declared officially to be in a state of “agricultural calamity”.
As ever, jobs are at stake. In the peach, nectarine and apricot sectors combined, 8,000 workers are employed plus another 2,500 in packing and distribution. Many of them will not be working for much longer if current trends continue. This year the cost of producing a kilo of peaches or nectarines was 0.73 euros, whereas the most producers could get back was 0.62 euros.
No wonder the elderly man in St Feliu can no longer balance his books. Over the past 5 years producers’ margins have averaged a derisory 1.3% on outlay. This year it will be minus 1.5%.
In the case of tomatoes, the situation this August and early September has defied credibility. In this land of sunshine and abundant local tomatoes, the Leader Price and Shopi chains have been promoting and selling Belgian tomatoes grown well over 1,000 kilometres away in Belgium and transpo