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What Are The Main Changes In French Agriculture Since 1945 And What Challenges Does It Face Today?

1612 words - 7 pages

In the days following the World War II, France was a devastated and ruined country: 600,000 people had been killed, 10000 bridges and 1 building out of 22 had been destroyed, and losses were estimated at a fourth of the 1938 domestic wealth (Dallenne 2004, 196). As for agriculture, despite several serious damages, it was still a vital part of the French economy. At the time, the majority of the farms were small family holdings equipped with relatively archaic technical means. Over one third of the working population was employed in this sector and a farmer fed 7 persons on average. I will study firstly the main changes that agriculture has undergone since 1945 with respect notably to the ...view middle of the document...

Another major change concerns the agricultural working population and the exploitations. In many respects, the rising efficiency of the sector, a strong demand in the service industry, and an intensifying competitive environment have led to a decrease in the number of farmers and farm labourers. From roughly a third of the French working population in 1946, they represented 3.3% of the workforce in 1999 that is 1.64M people (Frémy 2002: 1484). Moreover their wage has twice less increased than the national mean over the period.Concerning the holdings, their average size has tripled while the number of exploitations has been divided by five to reach 0.8M holdings in 2000. Besides, France's agriculture has arguably become dualist. On the one hand, some holdings have turned into productive capitalist firms linked with food processing industries and mass retail distributors -a fifth of the exploitations producing two third of the national production. But on the other hand, many others -often small-sized and poorly located- have not been able to invest enough to be economically integrated and dynamic, and are consequently declining.Since 1945 the search for ever higher yields has had a major impact over the agricultural landscape. French regions have indeed specialized in five main production types: industrially cultivated cereals in the Paris Basin and in the plains of the North of France; stock farming focused on meat and milk in the West and in the mountain areas; egg, battery chicken and pork meat intensively produced in Brittany; vine in Alsace, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and Corsica; and market garden produces and fruits in the Rhone valley and in the Mediterranean plains (Hagnerelle 1997: 126).This regional development has however not been homogeneous. In the cereal, fruit and vintage vine regions, 'agri-managers' have contributed to their economic integration into European and global markets. Yet in the South West, regions have been pushed on the fringe of economic sufficiency because of not wide enough holdings and of unprofitable mixed farming.French and European agricultural policies have strongly influenced the various agricultural changes. Under De Gaulle in the very early 1960s, measures aiming to reduce the number of farmers and of holdings lagging behind were taken and did divide the number of farms by almost two in twenty years. Besides the State supported modernisation and yield gains notably through vast irrigation schemes and road works improving the land service.As for price support, the European Common Agricultural Policy began, at the same period, to be in charge of it. During thirty years, the CAP favoured intensive and productive agriculture by guaranteeing the farmers the same minimum price 'irrespective of how much they produced, of world prices, or of prevailing levels of supply and demand' (McCormick 2005: 189). This led to economic dependency, to massive surplus that the European Community had to buy up, and to...

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