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FRANCE: AN ENTRENCHED AGRO-FOOD INSTITUTION

7 August 2018

FRANCE: AN ENTRENCHED AGRO-FOOD INSTITUTION

With its population set to reach 70 million people by 2045, France is the largest market in the European Union, mainly for the agricultural and food industries. In the hexagon, these sectors are concentrated in the production of raw and processed cereals such as wheat and flour, as well as in the livestock industry with dairy in particular. However, recent years may have seemed difficult for business, as a result of environmental, biological or political events. What is the French situation in 2018?


A NECESSARY REPOSITIONING

The French National Food Conference, which was held over five months in 2017, gave the opportunity to all the stakeholders in the food industry to meet. This consultation assessed the current system and its resulting circumstances in depth. This major discussion will enable French producers, among others, to adopt a new strategic position in a changing national and international market.

In France, the different agricultural players’ periods of investment tend to precede regeneration in production cycles. Periods of increased investment took place from 1949 to 1959, then again from 1960 to 1977, and finally from 1978 to 1997. There has been no comparable mass investment from the agricultural industry since. Obviously, in 2018, technologies are now very different from what they were 20 years ago; we only need to look at progress in automation and robotics to see this. We are now in a new period that will feature important investments from French industrial firms.


A CONTEXT OF TRANSPARENCY

Consumers also want better-defined rules and stricter requirements towards the product processing line, as well as traceability of its constituent parts. The government is responding to the buyers’ need for transparency with heightened interest in epidemiological surveillance in an aim to reduce health crises involving food products. A thorough hygiene is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity. In this context, a leader must have a line that meets the production plant quality expectations now required of any environment that handles food.


FRENCH WHEAT: A NEW PARADIGM

Wheat is France’s largest agricultural producer. In addition to a large domestic customer base, it occupies 6% of the global market and ranks fifth among countries that produce and export this cereal. French producers have the advantage of being able to develop a base built on the reputation and tradition of high-quality French wheat grain, as well as the flour, baking, and bread-making that results from it. 

Year on year, we are seeing an increase in farmland area and concentration of production, which creates homogeneity in cereal cultivation. Processed wheat sectors such as flour, baking, and pasta production are gradually expanding in each production period. However, there is a constant annual reduction in the workforce. With the rapid increase of the global population, rising urbanization rates and economic development of emerging markets that are not conducive to wheat cultivation, from a geoclimatic perspective, demand forecasts are optimistic.

Currently, wheat is consumed by more than 3 billion individuals; possibilities are therefore accessible, as long as producers can adopt an aggressive competitive approach. “Prior to this, we produced at a rate of 5 tons per hour and wanted to double the pace of 10 tons per hour, with the possibility of increasing later”, explains Marc Peterschmitt from Moulin Peterschmitt. To remain steadfast in markets that will become more and more competitive, the winning strategy is to have efficient equipment in the production line.

Photo by Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn on Unsplash


FRANCE, LAND OF MILK

After the end of the European Member States’ milk quotas in 2015, the global dairy crisis and contamination problems (such as melamine in China, or more recently, salmonella), France is finally able to hold its own. An effective way of staving off a potential crisis, which has been learned from these recent crises, is to guarantee the quality of one’s product and have equipment that meets the strictest hygiene criteria with draconian hygiene safety. “We work in food and baby nutrition: The hygiene aspect, among others, is vital to us. Therefore, among the equipment selection criteria that we gave was an absence of hollow bodies,” specifies François Musellec, director of industrial products, when he spoke about Synutra’s realignment in Brittany. When we produce baby milk powder or any other product for human consumption, it is essential that we obtain equipment that has been specially designed according to stringent hygiene rules.

Another challenge in the dairy industry is the cost of the product and the financial repercussions of any loss. It is therefore important that we have a production line that, in addition to not compromising the cleanliness of the product, will measure the required dose precisely. Whether the bags are for 5 or 25 kilos, the number of products packaged must meet requirements accurately, while reducing volatile losses which can also be disastrous. These precautions can be applied easily, with, for example, the principle of auger filling from the bottom to the top of the bag, with two dosing stations and equipment designed to minimize waste.


Finally, the cereal industry takes advantage of domestic French trade and the dairy industry works with international demand. It is now important that each of these industries can act on markets that appear less conventional, in order to seize all the business opportunities available. A major new challenge in the agricultural sector is the difficulty of finding workers. By updating production lines through automation, the producer can now redistribute its workers effectively. Through robotization, working conditions and staff safety have also been greatly improved. The main challenges to respond to are: First, to increase production and by the same token, return on investment, and second, to be at the forefront of technology in physical and virtual infrastructure (such as automated inspection systems and robotization) in order to face competition in France’s new context.

 

IN BRIEF:

  • The French agricultural market in three points:
    • Traditions
    • Challenges of globalization
    • The vitality of the regions

  • Additional resources to revitalize emerging markets, such as organic production, are in demand

  • The development of production system performance and risk management (hygiene, economic, etc.) is booming

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