Calls grow in France for ‘fruit and veg grants’ as food prices rise

The French Association of Rural families has published a report showing a sharp increase in fruit and vegetable prices from 2019-2021 and is calling for the government to give subsidies to poorer households to allow them to eat nutritious food.

A woman buys bananas in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis.
A woman buys bananas in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. A new study has suggested that the cost of fruit and veg in France has increased by nearly 10 percent in two years. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

The Association of Rural Families, an organisation that represents some 160,000 families in France and French overseas territories, has released a report that points to big rises in the price of fruit and vegetables. 

By analysing the cost of food items in shops across France, the association found that food prices as a whole had risen by 2 percent from 2019-2021 but that fruit and vegetables had become 9 percent more expensive. 

“The worrying signs for 2022 mean there is a necessity to give out ‘fruit and vegetable cheques’ so that families on modest budgets are not turned away from health foods,” argued the authors of the study. 

Their idea is that the government would subsidise poorer households to buy fruit or veg, in the same way it did to help pay energy bills with the “cheque énergie” in December. 

Economists say that a rise in food prices disproportionately impacts poorer families who tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on food and drink. 

France launched a National Nutrition and Health Plan in 2001.

Besides physical exercise, the government says people should eat fruit and vegetables five times per day and légumes sec (like chickpeas, lentils and beans) at least twice per week. It also recommends eating fish, whole carbohydrates, olive oil and dairy products. 

The Association of Rural Families said that following the government’s recommendations an economically difficult task for many families, costing €450 per month for a family of four (two adults, a teenager and a child) – which is more than a third of a monthly minimum wage (post-tax). For those who want to eat organic food, the cost is closer to €1,148 per month. 

“At that price, organic food is not an option for all budgets,” noted the report. 

The study, which was based on the prices in 148 shops in 37 départements, found that the average cost of identical food products in French overseas territories in French overseas territories such as La Réunion, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and Martinique, was 50 percent higher than in mainland France.  

Conditions like Diabetes and obesity tend to be higher in French overseas territories than on the mainland. Both of these conditions are risk factors when it comes to Covid-19 and other diseases. 

The association says that by investing to make food more affordable for poorer households, it would be possible to “break the development of many pathologies linked to the over-consumption of products that are too fatty, sugary and salty”. 

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Kinder pulls 3,000 tonnes of products after salmonella cases

Children in nine European countries, including 81 in France, were affected

Kinder pulls 3,000 tonnes of products after salmonella cases

More than 3,000 tonnes of Kinder products have been withdrawn from the market over salmonella fears leaving a dent of tens of millions of euros, a company official has told France’s Le Parisien.

Nicolas Neykov, the head of Ferrero France, said the contamination came “from a filter located in a vat for dairy butter”, at a factory in Arlon in Belgium.

He said the contamination could have been caused by humans or raw materials.

Chocolate products made at the factory in Arlon, southeastern Belgium, were found to contain salmonella, resulting in 150 cases in nine European countries.

Eighty-one of these were in France, mainly affecting children under 10 years old.

The factory’s closure and the health concerns were blows to its owner, Italian confectionery giant Ferrero, coming at the height of the Easter holiday season when its Kinder chocolates are sought-after supermarket buys.

“This crisis is heartbreaking. It’s the biggest removal of products in the last 20 years,” Neykov said.

But the company hoped to be able to start up the factory again, with 50 percent of health and safety inspections to be carried out by an approved “external laboratory” in the future, instead of the previous system of only internal reviews.

“We have asked for a reopening from June 13 to relaunch production as soon as possible,” he added.