France: Regulations forcing small flock owners out of business

Farmers Weekly rounds up a year’s news through the eyes of farmers across the globe. Today we hear from Tim and Chrissie Green in France

Tim and Chrissie Green moved from the UK to France 29 years ago. They now run a farming partnership of 248ha in Lower Normandy. Their main enterprise is dairy, alongside arable and 600 sheep. They also have a small suckler herd and produce cider apples for a small co-operative.

France has never experienced a year with weather this strange. Summer was another 1976, and left us with the latest maize harvest we’ve ever known and none of next years’ cereals in the ground.

Our main enterprise of dairy cows has been caught in the pincer movement of increasing costs and decreasing prices. With our 100-plus Normande-bred cows supplying raw milk for Camembert and Livarot cheese production, we are lucky to maintain a higher-than-average rolling price of €0.39 (32.5p), but this is scheduled to slip downwards over the coming winter.

Key facts

Population 65 million

Average rainfall 800mm

Agricultural area 29m ha

Vies with Italy to be the biggest wine producer on the planet. The two countries produce 4.5m tonnes of wine each

Feed prices have rocketed for all livestock enterprises, with soya peaking at €560 (£459) and grain prices proving a bonanza for cereal producers at €250/t (£205/t) for wheat at harvest.

Running more than 600 breeding ewes makes us a major producer in an ever-declining sheep population. Despite valiant efforts by the government to promote home sheep production, it continues to fall (-45% in 10 years). They blame cheap imports from the UK and New Zealand, but a poor industry structure and increasing regulations such as EID and strict regulation of movements has had a bigger effect, with many small flocks disappearing.

With average prices hovering around the €6/kg (£4.92/kg), I believe we should be grateful for the buoyant UK sheep trade always putting a bottom in our market.

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