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Covid 19: French agriculture must be given the means to function

Agricultural production and processing activities are not affected by the activity restrictions. It is therefore imperative to give ourselves the means to ensure sufficient agricultural production while respecting the essential health protection rules.

The vegetable and fruit production sector has difficulties in obtaining and recruiting the employees necessary for the activity of the company.

Our first survey of production companies shows that 15 to 20% of the workforce was absent from work before the Coronavirus crisis. Adaptations in terms of working hours, in particular the maximum duration and annualization are possible as well as the tax exemption of overtime for employees and employers. But the problem of the lack of manpower is to come with an increasing demand in harvest and for the establishment of cultures. The situation will worsen with the impossibility of displacement of the foreign seasonal workers who constitute a very important part of the workers in production. Some of them were unable to join the farms. They represent 15,000 to 20,000 people each year. We are therefore seeking to find solutions with the various ministries to facilitate the transfer of employees affected by partial unemployment from other sectors such as horticulture. The approach must be made attractive by remunerating and maintaining their rights.

The situation of confinement of the population has totally unbalanced consumption habits.

The French mainly bought pasta or rice. The current situation creates a condition of household under-supply of fruits and vegetables which are fresh, perishable and sometimes intuitive products during daily purchases. Our discussions with certain retail chains relate to their privileged supply of products of French origin and the promotion of seasonal productions such as strawberries and asparagus. This strategy was planned over several weeks in order to multiply the vegetables and fruits that will benefit from these actions. We also wish to maintain the possible fairground markets by municipal exemption. Supervision by municipal and national police officers shows that it is possible to regulate the incivilities unfortunately noted. These are places where professionals and producers make significant efforts in terms of service to consumers. The handling of products is notably very limited.

Strong government decisions expected to ensure continued operations in the coming months

These aid decisions will have to take into account operating losses, otherwise farms will not recover. Our sector is characterized by the periodicity and the perishability of its productions. Today’s losses will not recover tomorrow. It is also very important to provide businesses with the financial capacity to keep their business going. The production and supply capacity for summer and fall vegetables and fruits is currently being played out with the establishment of crops and significant investments for farm managers. Financial support must be total to ensure future growing cycles. Agriculture must be given the means so that it can function and feed the French.
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