Currently, nearly a million hectares of French farmland are devoted to crops such as soybeans, peas, legumes, alfalfa and legumes. The French government wants to add 400,000 additional hectares in two years. By 2030, “the surface [area] will be doubled to reach 8% of the useful agricultural area, or 2 million hectares, ”the strategy specifies.
Denormandie revealed that this will be supported by a dedicated budget of 100 million euros as part of the “France Relance” plan, a roadmap towards “social, economic and ecological overhaul” which will see 1.2 billion euros spent to “build the France of 2030” ”. The money will be spent on organizing the downstream sector, research and development, purchasing seeds and promoting the consumption of pulses at the buyer level.
For sovereignty and sustainability
Denormandie said the plan, the result of a year-long consultation process, reflects the need to promote French agribusiness independence.
“France is the leading agricultural power in Europe and yet our dependence on imports remains too high. My priority is clear: we must… regain agro-food sovereignty, and this cannot be done without the development of French production of plant proteins ”.He commented.
Denormandie suggested that France is not “sufficiently autonomous” in the production of vegetable proteins. For example, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the country produces half of the protein-rich material needed for animal feed.The ministry said the strategy is therefore “first and foremost” a question of sovereignty which aims to reduce dependence on world markets, and in particular the import of South American plant proteins like soybeans. France imports 4.8 million tonnes of soybeans each year for animal feed.
This means that imports of plant proteins are also an “environmental challenge,” the agriculture ministry suggested, noting that these imports may be linked to deforestation, forest degradation and destruction of natural ecosystems in some. producing countries.
Indeed, new data from Brazil this week suggests that deforestation in the Amazon is accelerating. The Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has released the latest figures for the period August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2020. Deforestation in the Amazon has increased 9.5% compared to last year. This is the highest level since 2008: 11,088 km² have been destroyed, or 626 million trees cut.
At the same time, the ministry suggested, growing legumes promotes biodiversity and improves soil health by “fixing” nitrogen. Legumes thrive in a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. Bacteria take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, nourishing the legumes. In return, the plant supplies the bacteria with carbohydrates.
Green agrifood policy or greenwashing?
The strategy has been welcomed by the National Union of the Industry of Animal Nutrition (SNIA), which represents the French animal nutrition sector.
“Our collective interest is indeed to strengthen the dynamics of the French production of vegetable proteins”,SNIA President François Cholat commented.
Domestic production of plant protein will improve the sustainability of animal nutrition and hence the production of animal protein, it has been suggested.
« [The French] The animal nutrition sector is heavily invested in the sustainability of its supplies and the development of plant proteins in France will undoubtedly contribute to this ”. This Cholat.
However, Greenpeace France has dismissed the government’s plan as mere greenwashing because it fails to address what the environmental campaign group sees as a fundamental flaw in the production system: overreliance on animal protein.
Highlighting deforestation in the Amazon, the head of the forest campaign Cécile Leuba insisted: “France has its share of responsibility for this environmental disaster.”
She stressed that President Emmanuel Macron’s “fine speeches” committing France to environmentally friendly aspirations had “no effect” due to the lack of “means and ambition”.
“The issue of imported deforestation is intimately linked to our model of industrial agriculture and the overproduction and overconsumption of meat, eggs and dairy products”.Leuba continues.
In the plant protein strategy, the stated objective is to fight against the “total dependence on proteins of our farms”, she suggested. “Unfortunately, the issue of overproduction of meat, eggs and dairy products has been completely put aside. As long as the government refuses to tackle this problem, it can already be said that this strategy will be doomed to failure. ”