In the midst of the farmers’ protest movement, MEP François-Xavier Bellamy affirms that “in 2019, France became commercially deficit in its agricultural trade balance”, that is to say “we are importing more agricultural products that we export”. This is false, France’s agricultural trade balance has always been in surplus.
Farmer demonstrations are increasing in Germany, Romania, Poland but also in France: farmers are blocking the A64 motorway between Toulouse and Tarbes, others have gathered in the Loire or Mayenne. Farmers denounce rising production costs, the commercial repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine and European environmental standards considered too onerous. In this context, Christian Democrats MEP François-Xavier Bellamy assured Friday January 19 on franceinfo that there was an “emergency”. “In 2019, France became commercially deficit in its agricultural balance for the first time, this means that we import more than we export agricultural products, we have become dependent,” he assures. Is it true ? The True or False cell checked.
The French agricultural trade balance has always been in surplus
It’s wrong. In 2019, France’s agricultural trade balance was in surplus: + 7.8 billion euros according to French customs data, adding the balance of agricultural, forestry, fishing and aquaculture products and the balance of products from the agri-food industry. We exported more, in value, than we imported. This is still the case. In 2022, the last year with consolidated figures, the balance of the agricultural trade balance showed 10.3 billion euros, again according to French customs data, taken up by the Ministry of Agriculture. The French agricultural trade balance has never been in deficit.
In 2022, France’s overall agri-food surplus will even reach its best level since 2013. Exports, in value, have increased faster than imports. But this is mainly explained by a price effect: inflation on exported products (+16%), particularly cereals due to the war in Ukraine, has boosted the trade balance. Exported volumes increased by 3%, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
A negative agricultural trade balance with the European Union
Despite these encouraging results, experts have noted an erosion of French agricultural performance for several years. If we only look at France’s trade with the other countries of the European Union, the French agricultural trade balance has in fact been in deficit since 2015, as explained in this note from FranceAgriMer and this information report from Senate, dating from 2022. France imports more products from our European neighbors than it exports to them.
The French Chamber of Agriculture estimates “that with the exception of live cattle, all sectors are losing market share in the EU, with sometimes significant declines in wheat and flour, in sugar and even in wine, previously considered bastions of the French agri-food sector.
Furthermore, the French agricultural trade balance, at the global level, is very positive but this in reality hides disparities depending on the goods. Wines and spirits are in large surplus: the balance showed +15 billion euros in 2022, according to FranceAgriMer. Consequently, if we remove wines and spirits, the French agricultural trade balance becomes negative. Cereals and dairy products are also in large surplus.
On the other hand, the trade deficit for fruits and vegetables is glaring: – 7 billion euros in 2022. France notably imports a lot of exotic products, which are not found in France. The fishing trade balance is also in deficit: two thirds of the seafood products that end up on our plate come from abroad.
This article is originally published on radiofrance.fr