Farmers and fishermen on the verge of bankruptcy amid high energy costs

published on Sunday, October 23, 2022 at 9:52 p.m.

Storing crops or preserving fish when energy bills continue to rise is a real challenge for some farmers and fishermen. They ask the State for help, given the “risk of collapse” of essential sectors in the name of food sovereignty but also of employment.

Skyrocketing costs of crop storage or fish preservation: Some farmers and fishermen are helpless.

They ask the State for help, given the “risk of collapse” of essential sectors in the name of food sovereignty but also of employment.

Weakened by the Covid crisis, then by Brexit, some fishing professionals are today on the verge of bankruptcy according to the Union du mareyage français, which brings together 400 companies and 10,700 employees. “At today’s rates, a Breton SME with an electricity bill of 200,000 euros in 2021 would increase to 800,000 euros,” says theAFP the leader, Peter Samson.

For a sector where the cold chain is essential from the auctions to the stalls, the bills are getting heavier. “We only got out of there by increasing the volume, but fish landings have decreased there, especially due to the price of diesel and the quotas of sole in the Cantabrian Sea,” he explains. According to him, the fishmonger will not be able to withstand the energy shock without help.

“A risk of collapse is no longer a catastrophic scenario but the scenario expected in the coming weeks if a support solution is not found quickly,” stressed Olivier Le Nézet, president of the national fisheries committee (CNPMEM) on Friday, October 21 in a press release.

In the field too, bills skyrocket. To preserve carrots, apples or kiwis, operators must maintain ventilation systems and temperatures between 0° and 8°C. The potato, fruit and vegetable sectors claim to be “at the foot of the energy wall in the face of the explosion in the cost of storing their crops, linked to the stratospheric prices of electricity contracts currently offered”.

“What can we say to farmers who ask us every day what they should do with tariff proposals sometimes multiplied by ten, preventing any hope of income and economic sustainability?”, claims the FNSEA (majority union). “He urges that a tariff shield be applied to agricultural exploitations.”

Renewal of electrical contracts: the worst is to be feared

Because the worst is yet to come: many producers will have to renew their electricity contracts next year. With the new offers from suppliers, the average storage cost of apples and pears would increase in 2023 “from 0.02 to 0.1 euros per kilo, or 400%”, warn the producers.

Currently, small businesses are still ineligible for emergency government aid when their energy expenditure does not reach 3% of their 2021 turnover.

The union warns of “a new crisis with uncontrollable consequences for food security.” And he stresses, while the war in Ukraine continues to weigh on world agricultural trade, that “the context of energy tension should not make us forget the strategic nature of food.”

From the countryside to the sea, everyone calls on the State to consider these sectors as priorities, in the name of food sovereignty but also of employment: about 100,000 in the fishing sector, from aquaculture to wholesalers, and about 400,000 for ranchers , not to mention indirect jobs.

In the medium term, the fishermen ask for solutions “to limit the energy dependence” of their sector, in particular through the “decarbonization” of an aging fleet and port infrastructure. Meanwhile, the National Fisheries Committee asks for aid “to lower the price of fuel for all fishermen by 35 cents”, after the expiration on September 30 of aid of the same amount for diesel for boats.

And while the Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville, has requested, for the time being in vain, a special effort from large retailers to finance a solidarity mechanism within the sector, the committee recalls the urgency of such a system, quantifying the needs” of 70 to €150 million depending on the scope and level of support”.

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