The French agrifood industry is one of France and Europe’s most important economic sectors, and the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry’s office of Statistics and Studies has just released a comprehensive fact sheet, breaking down the industry piece by piece and examining what makes it so unique. In addition to the figures presented through this panorama of French agriculture, this study identifies the principal consumer trends that have begun to reshape the industry in France, many of which are currently being observed in the United States.
Let us start by defining the agrifood industry as the collection of primary and secondary agrifood companies – including the farms and farmers who produce for said companies – that process animals, plants and grains into finished food products. These “companies” run the gamut from large retail supermarkets to a produce stand at your favorite farmers market.
In France, the agrifood industry represents €178 billion ($221 billion) in revenue or 20% of the revenue of all manufacturing industries. These figures include small retail business such as local bakeries and delis. The agrifood industry is responsible for the employment of 584,963 people and approximately 60,566 companies. When removing small retailer businesses, the figure adjusts drastically to 425,640 employees at 15,656 companies. The vast majority of French companies (98%) within this sector are small-to-medium sized enterprises. In fact, those with fewer than 10 workers account for 75% of the total number of companies. Meat and dairy farmers are highest in number and together bring in more than a third of the industry’s revenue. Beverage manufacturing, including wine, spirits and soft drinks contribute to 16.1% of its revenue.
The French agrifood industry realizes an annual positive trade balance of €8 billion (approximately $10 billion). It is the lead industry in terms of employment and number two in exports, behind aeronautical industry. 63% of agricultural exports are destined for other EU countries, but third country exportations are on the rise. France has become the leading extra-EU exporter among EU countries, with 10% growth every year between 2009 and 2012. The French agrifoood industry generates 30% of all European beverage sales to non-EU countries and 28% sales of cereals and processed cereal-based food products. Although beverage manufacture represents a relatively small fraction of industry-wide production, it has a much higher rate of exportation than do meat and dairy, for example.
In order to remain an international leader in the agroindustry, the French agricultural professionals and stakeholders at every level of production need to adapt to new challenges and evolving demands. Consumers are going to the store looking with an ever keener eye for high quality products whose contents and origin are transparent. A higher emphasis is also placed on health, as seen through the global rise in organic consumption. Finally, convenience is still a priority for today’s consumer, but not at the expense of quality and transparency. Consumers want less perishable food in more ecologically-friendly packaging.