A quarter of food markets in France to reopen after coronavirus shutdown

About 2,500 French food markets may go back into business this week, after they were granted an exemption from the rule that ordered them to close down during the coronavirus lockdown.

A quarter of food markets in France to reopen after coronavirus shutdown
The food markets in France that have been granted an exemption from the ban on their activity during the coronavirus lockdown must comply with strict health regulations. Photo: AFP

Most of the markets are small-scale situated in rural areas and towns with less than 2,500 inhabitants, according to the French national federation of markets and the Agricultural Ministry.

But cities like Lille, Grenoble, Rennes were also on the list of areas that were allowed to reopen food markets, in an agreement negotiated between unions and the French agricultural and interior ministries, announced on Tuesday.

Paris did not feature on the list of areas granted an exemption from the government's coronavirus lockdown rules. Nor did its suburbs Seine-Saint-Denis and Hauts-de-Seine.

New rules

While the markets would be able to go back into business as soon as this week, they would need to comply with strict health regulations.

Mairies (town/city halls) would need to organise for customers to line up outside the exit of the market and that only one person would be allowed at each booth at the time.

Booths must be spaced out and shoppers must respect rules of social distancing by keeping one metre between them.

Entries and exits must provide hand sanitising gel dispensers and sellers must wast their hands between each customer.

No cash would be allowed and everyone would need to pay by contactless card (sans contact) payment. 

Food sellers will have to wash their hands between each customer following the new rules on French food markets. Photo: AFP

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on March 24th ordered all of France's 10,000 markets to close down in a tightening of the rules on commercial activities during the coronavirus lockdown.

The ban followed several media reports of crowds of shoppers breaking with the strict rules of social distancing to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Some rural areas in France depend on their food markets for fresh products. Photo: AFP

Exemptions could be granted to municipalities where markets fill an essential role, the PM said – providing that they gathered less than 100 people.

“In some towns, the market is the only way to get access to French products,” Philippe said, adding that local authorities would be better suited than the government to decide the necessity of the markets in their areas.

The ban caused disarray among French food producers of products such as cheese, fish and vegetables as they had already lost out financially on the closing down of restaurants and cafeterias in the country.

Member comments

  1. Ils ne comprennent rien.notre marche c’est un agriculteur du coin et un charcutier. Ils n’ont pas les moyens de faire payer par carte. wtf are they thinking these people making the rules. Our village is not Rungis. It’s little people making little money and doing the best to help one another

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Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

The French Constitution offers broad legal protection to anyone in France from the right to trial to the right to legal advice, but there are some scenarios specific to foreigners in France.

Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

What are my rights if I am arrested or imprisoned?

If you are arrested you have the same rights as a French citizen to legal advice, phone calls, bail and a full trial – full details HERE.

There are some extra things to be aware of however;

Once arrested you have the right to an interpreter during police interviews.

You have the right to call your Embassy, although the help the Embassy can offer you is much more limited than many people think.

If you are released while awaiting a court hearing you will usually have to hand over your passport and undertake not to leave the country. If you are not a French resident, the judge can assign you a residency address in France.

If you are found guilty and imprisoned in France you maintain several rights, such as the right to vote (if you have French citizenship). France’s interior ministry has a handout detailing these rights, HERE

Can I appeal against my sentence?

Yes, you have the right to appeal a court’s decision.

Keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process with very specific deadlines – and it can go either way, so you risk a sentence being increased.

If you are acquitted in court,  French law also allows for the prosecution to appeal against your acquittal.

I am the victim of a crime, what are my rights?

In France, the role of the state and the prosecutor is to protect the peace, this means that if someone commits a crime against you, it is up to the state to decide whether to move forward with criminal proceedings.

It’s not up to the victim to decide whether or not to press charges.

Conversely, if the state chooses not to go ahead with criminal proceedings, but you (the victim) want them to press charges, you have the right to appeal against their decision to drop the case.

Can I be expelled from France for committing a crime?

Yes, although this is generally reserved for people who have committed serious crimes such as violent crime, drug-trafficking or terror offences.

If you have been jailed for a serious crime in France you can be served with an ‘interdiction du territoire français‘ – a ban from French soil – on your release. These are reserved for the most serious offences and simply being incarcerated does not necessarily lead to expulsion.

If you are a full-time resident in France but not a French citizen, then being convicted of a crime can mean that your visa or residency card will not be renewed. This is again usually reserved for people who have committed very serious crimes, but in certain circumstances residency can be withdrawn for less serious offences such as driving offences or begging. 

READ ALSO What offences can lose you the right to live in France?

If you have French citizenship it’s virtually impossible for your to be expelled from France although in some rare cases – usually connected to terrorism – citizenship of dual nationals can be revoked.

What are the rules for minors?

Minors in the French legal system have some specific rights. The EU has laid out the specific rights of minors, which apply in France as well, and apply from the time of arrest.

  • Right to be be quickly informed of legal rights, and to be assisted by your parents (or other appropriate persons)
  • Right to be assisted by a lawyer
  • No prison sentence should be imposed on a minor if they have not been assisted by a lawyer during the court hearings. All measures should be exhausted to avoid a child being imprisoned.
  • Right to be detained separately from adults if sent to prison.
  • Children should not be required “to reimburse the costs of certain procedural measures, for example, for individual assessment, medical examination, or audio-visual recording of interviews.”
  • A child’s privacy should be respected and “questioning will be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.”
  • Repeatedly questioning children should be avoided.