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Visiting France

Suppliers shun 'overpriced' French meat, in latest tussle with farmers

media French farmers block trucks that transport food goods coming from foreign countries at the French German border in Strasbourg, July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

France's agricultural crisis deepened on Tuesday, after two important pig processors boycotted French pork, deemed too expensive and lacking in competitiveness with its European rivals. Meat sales were down by 20%  on Monday, and could put further strain on farmers, many of whom are on the verge of bankruptcy.

The price tag comes to 1.40€. That's the amount for a kilo of fresh pork reared and bred in France, and this is the same amount that was fixed by the government last month, following weeks of protests by farmers over low food prices.

But for two of the country's top processors- La Cooperl and Bigard/Socopa - the price isn't low enough, and faced with stiff competition from producers in Germany and Spain, they decided to simply not turn up to the livestock auction market on Monday.

Refusing any interview requests, the two companies merely stated in a press release backdated to August 6, that it was difficult for them to pay the asked price of 1.40€, when German producers were selling their pork 25 cents cheaper at 1.15€.

In response to this latest twist, France's Agricultural minister Stéphane Le Foll, invoked all actors to "assume their responsibilities," while aknowledging that retailers and food processors "had made some efforts," to resolve the crisis, he said during an urgent press conference.

Farmers however, say they need more support to combat flagging exports and low prices that have left an estimated 10% of the country’s livestock producers on the verge of bankruptcy. Reacting to news of the boycott of French pork on news channel BFM TV, the head of France's pigmeat federation Paul Auffray, said farmers were being "held to ransom" by retailers and food processors.

Despite a government plan to inject 600 million euros into the beleaguered sector, most farmers view the package as "inadequate." Which is perhaps why Le Foll now wants new reforms to stimulate the economy- known as the Responsibility Pact- to be redirected also towards the agricultural sector to free up 19 million euros of cash.

The end game is to enable farmers to have a monthly salary of 1.700 euros, compared to the minimum wage of a little over 1.000€.

A crisis meeting to discuss these price wars, price fixing and volatility, has been called for the end of August.

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