The French government has sided with the decision of the European Court of Justice, which bans the use by farmers of neonicotinoids to fight an aphid that is devastating beet crops. The industry is asking for state support. The economic stake is important.
A “sound of thunder” hits the beet growing sector, which considers itself “at the foot of the wall” after the government’s decision to line up behind that of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Until now, French farmers have benefited from a derogation to use neonicotinoids and thus prevent aphids from contaminating beets with jaundice. It must be said that in 2020, when the insecticide was banned, this jaundice had wreaked havoc: on average, almost 30% of production had gone up in smoke, the most affected farms had also lost up to 70% of the harvest. And the problem, farmers insist, is that today there is no effective alternative to fight this virus. According to the beet growers’ union, the specialists working on these alternatives believe it is “unlikely” that they will see the light of day “before 2026”. They “maybe” see the beginning of a solution for 2024.
A market of 2 to 3 billion euros
Meanwhile the beet growers, who have to sow in a month and a half, are asking the State for a commitment to provide economic support in the event of losses due to jaundice. The Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, yesterday presented an action plan to the operators of the sector. He said he is aware of the need to give them “visibility, otherwise [la filière] “it could face enormous difficulties”.
Behind the 23,500 French beet producers are the industrialists. There are 21 sugar factories in France, mostly in the northern part of the country. The sector accounts for no less than 80,000 direct and indirect jobs. Sugar, ethanol or even alcohol are obtained from beets, used in pharmacies or for liqueurs… The market is estimated at between 2 and 3 billion euros. The risk, warned by the FNSEA, the main agricultural union, is that of having to import. And it is always the same problem that arises: that of the country’s food sovereignty.