EXCLUSIVE SURVEY – Food sovereignty: worried, the French want a more autonomous country
It’s not that far. In the spring of 2020, in full confinement, the French feared…
It’s not that far. In the spring of 2020, in full confinement, the French feared a food shortage and rushed for basic necessities. Interviewed three years later, this concern remains perceptible. In the middle of the Agricultural Show which highlights the “Farm France”, hasn’t the government just announced a plan intended to “reconquer” the country’s food sovereignty in fruits and vegetables imported today up to 60% and 40% respectively?
“Public opinion is well aware that France is an agricultural country where we produce a good part of our food. But the French are also aware that the country is not completely independent, ”underlines Vincent Thibaut, director of opinion advice at Elabe. According to a survey carried out by the research firm for “Les Echos”, Radio Classique and the Institut Montaigne published on Thursday, more than a third of them even consider that France “imports a lot” and is not therefore “not at all autonomous to cover the needs of its population”.
Produce “French”, or even “European”, but no more
For many, there is above all, today, the desire to go even further. A strong and almost unanimous desire to achieve food sovereignty. But the scale is debated and the French appear very divided, notes Elabe. Nearly half of those questioned (46%) indeed want France to produce “everything it needs on its territory to no longer depend on other countries”, when 41% believe that Paris must get along with the others. European Union countries to produce together.
“This is where the political variable comes into play, notes Vincent Thibaut, since this tendency to wish for national sovereignty is stronger among Marine Le Pen voters, while conversely, the electorate of Emmanuel Macron projects himself more on a European scale. The great ideological schemes therefore also permeate this question of sovereignty”.
In any case, only 12% of respondents think that France should continue to trade with countries around the world. The Covid has been there. “The fact of saying that at some point we may lack something and that we depend on distant countries – and not necessarily allies – also affects essential needs such as food, in the same way as health”, argues Vincent Thibaut.
This desire for greater autonomy does not make the French very optimistic about how the country can get there. There is even a real doubt. They are only 60% to judge that we will be able to produce food in sufficient quantity in 2050, they are only 53% to consider that this production can be of good quality at the same time, and less than half to imagine that it could be respectful of the planet at the same time.
For Vincent Thibaut, it is certain that the real situation of French agriculture and the warning speeches heard recently, such as on the drought, weigh on public opinion.
In front of the soaring food prices for a year, the French also believe that the wrongs are shared. About as many point the finger at the food industry “which is increasing its prices too much”, large retailers “which do not reduce their margins enough” or the international context of war in Ukraine.