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ENVIRONMENT

The rules for foraging for fruit and mushrooms in France’s forests

The end of summer in rural France - even the overheated, overdry one we’ve just had - heralds the start of foraging season.

The rules for foraging for fruit and mushrooms in France’s forests
Photo: Beth Jnr / Unsplash

There are, it’s true, few things nicer than tucking into a huge mushroom omelette with fungi, or a fruit pie made with fresh berries that you have foraged for yourself in nearby woodland. 

But there are a few things you need to know before you get started.

Obviously, only eat something if you’re sure that you know what it is – many of France’s fruits, flowers and herbs are toxic to varying degrees. If you’re foraging for mushrooms once the season starts, be aware that pharmacists offer a mushroom-identification service so that you can check that your haul is safe to eat.

But even if you’re an experienced forager, there are certain rules to be aware of in France.

The key point is that every forest has an owner, and all the fruits of these forests belong to someone. 

According to French law (Article 547 of the Code Civil to be precise) mushrooms, fruit and berries legally belong to the owner of the land on which they grow.

The actual wording of the law is: “The natural or industrial fruits of the earth, the civil fruits, the growth of animals, belong to the owner by right of accession”. 

That means you need the permission of the landowner before you start picking. Entering private land without an invitation is trespassing, and could land you in court. 

If you are caught picking fruit or mushrooms on private land, you can face fines of between €750 and €45,000 and up to three years in prison – rising to €75,000 and 5 years’ imprisonment in the event of aggravating circumstances, such as getting into a scrap with the irate landowner.

This includes windfall. Article 673 adds: “The fruit that have fallen naturally from these branches belong to [the owner].”

So, if you don’t know who owns the land, it’s best to keep to public spaces such as national parks and woodland that are open to the public. 

In areas owned by the state, you can collect up a limited amount of wild produce – usually five litres (around 2 kilogrammes), and described as being “for family use”. 

Exceeding that limit leaves the picker subject to a fine ranging from €750 to €45,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment.

Be aware, local authorities might have passed additional rules to protect local inhabitants’ rights – especially on land that is owned by the commune rather than the State. In commune-owned areas picking is reserved for those who live or have property in the commune.

Note, too, that it is illegal to sell-on any produce you have foraged.

After that, pick only fruit growing above waist height to avoid fox urine, wash all your produce before you cook it, and take your mushrooms to a pharmacist for identification.

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POLITICS

Income tax, property grants and cigarettes: What’s in France’s 2023 budget?

France's finance minister has unveiled the government's financial plans for the next year, and says that his overall aim is to 'protect' households in France from inflation and rises in the cost of living - here's what he announced.

Income tax, property grants and cigarettes: What's in France's 2023 budget?

The 2023 Budget was formally presented to the Council of Ministers on Monday, before economy minister Bruno Le Maire announced the main details to the press. 

The budget must now be debated in parliament, and more details on certain packages will be revealed in the coming days, but here is the overview;

Inflation – two of the biggest measures to protect households from the rising cost of living had already been announced – gas and electricity prices will remain capped in 2023, albeit at the higher rate of 15 percent, while low-income households will get a €100-200 grant. The energy price cap is expected to cost the government €45 billion in 2023.

EXPLAINED: What your French energy bills will look like in 2023

Property renovations – the MaPrimeRenov scheme, which gives grants to householders for works that make their homes more energy-efficient, will be extended again into 2023, with a budget of €2.5 billion to distribute.

Income tax – the income tax scale will be indexed to inflation in 2023, so that workers who get a pay increase to cope with the rising cost of living don’t find themselves paying more income tax. “Disposable income after tax will remain the same for all households even if their salary increases,” reads the 2023 Budget.

Pay rises –  pay will increase for teachers, judges and other civil servants as inflation is forecast to reach 4.3 percent next year after 5.4 percent in 2022. Around €140 million is assigned to increase the salaries of non-teaching staff in schools. 

New jobs – nearly 11,000 more public employees will be hired, in a stark reversal of President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 campaign promise to slash 120,000 public-sector jobs – 2,000 of these jobs will be in teaching. 

Small business help – firms with fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2 million will also benefit from the 15 percent price cap on energy bills in 2023. The finance ministry will put in place a simplified process for small businesses to claim this aid. In total €3 billion is available to help small businesses that are suffering because of rising costs. 

Refugees – In the context of the war in Ukraine, the government plans to finance 5,900 accommodation places for refugees and asylum seekers in various reception and emergency accommodation centres. The budget provides for a 6 percent increase in the “immigration, asylum and integration” budget.

Cigarettes – prime minister Elisabeth Borne had already announced that the price of cigarettes will rise “in line with inflation”.

Ministries – Le Maire also announced the budget allocation for the various ministries. The Labour ministry is the big winner with an increase of 42.8 percent compared to last year, coupled with the goal to reach full employment by 2027. Education gets an increase of €60.2 billion (or 6.5 percent more than in 2022), much of which will go on increasing teachers’ salaries, while the justice and environment ministries will also see increased budgets.

Conversely, there was a fall in spending for the finance ministry itself.

Borrowing –  the government will borrow a record €270 billion next year in order to finance the budget. “This is not a restrictive budget, nor an easy one – it’s a responsible and protective budget at a time of great uncertainties,” said Le Maire. 

The government is tabling on growth of one percent, a forecast Le Maire defended as “credible and pro-active” despite an estimate of just 0.5 percent GDP growth by the Bank of France, and 0.6 percent from economists at the OECD.

The public deficit is expected to reach five percent of GDP, as the EU has suspended the rules limiting deficit spending to three percent of GDP because of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Parliament

The budget plans now need to be debated in parliament where they are likely to face fierce opposition. Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM party and its allies lost their majority in elections earlier this year.

Macron also plans to push ahead with a pension reform that would gradually start pushing up the official retirement age from 62 currently, setting up a standoff with unions and left-wing opposition parties.

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