Lid comes off French farm subsidies

Published: 22 November 2005

Europe must face up to the need to reform its Common Agricultural Policy following new revelations of inequality from another of its member states this week, said international agency Oxfam today.

Europe must face up to the need to reform its Common Agricultural Policy following new revelations of inequality from another of its member states this week, said international agency Oxfam today.

French newspaper La Tribune has published figures that show the biggest French farming businesses swallow up the vast majority of its European Union (EU) agricultural subsidies.

The new figures show that France’s biggest 12 recipients each get more than 500,000 Euros a year in subsidies alone. The biggest two get 1.7 million Euros a year between them.

The revelations come as EU Foreign Ministers meet today (Nov 7) in Brussels to discuss the EU budget and trade negotiators from the EU, US, India and Brazil meet in London to try to unblock WTO negotiations.

“CAP reform will be on top of the agenda in Brussels. Meanwhile, negotiators in London need to realize that it’s not only the EU that must move – everyone needs to make sure that these WTO talks help developing countries,” said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign.

France is leading an aggressive defense of the CAP at the WTO. France gets around 9.4 billion Euros from the 44 billion Euro CAP budget. Oxfam analysis of European Commission’s own statistics that show that the top 15% of French farming businesses consume a massive 60% of its direct payments.

“This gives a lie to the French argument that it uses EU subsidies to support its small farmers. They plainly don’t. Most small French farmers – 70% of them – get only 17% of the subsidies doled out by Paris. This is as graphic a picture of inequality as we’ve already seen in the UK and Spain,” Charveriat said.

“The CAP is a gravy train for Europe’s biggest, richest farmers,” she said. “We don’t want the CAP dismantled – we want it changed so that it supports small farming and environmentally-friendly production, not the big export-oriented agri-businesses that dump cheap produce into poor countries.”

“These new figures help show why most of Europe wants to maintain the status quo – even if that means crippling the WTO development round. The danger in this sort of attitude is that it will allow the US and others to get away with doing very little and placing the blame on the EU.”

“The losers of a continued stalemate will be will be Europe’s small farmers, who need more targeted support, and millions of poor farmers in developing countries, who need an end to rich country dumping.”

Oxfam has been instrumental in helping to expose the huge inequalities in farm spending that exist in the UK, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia and now France.

Recent revelations about CAP include:

  • According to Oxfam research, in Spain, 303 “gold names” in Spanish farming receive more than 398 million Euros each year – this represents more than 1.3 million Euros for each farm. The seven top farms got 14.5 million Euros – this was the same amount shared between the 12,700 smallest Spanish farmers.
  • In Denmark, four Danish cabinet ministers, several of its MPs and even the country's EU commissioner receive payments under the Common Agricultural Policy running into millions of pounds.
  • In the Netherlands, the agriculture minister Cees Veerman was receiving 150,000 Euros in subsidies, while further reports showed that the country’s biggest recipients of direct aid and export subsidies from 1999 to 2003 were the Dutch arm of Mars; Dutch brewer Heineken NV; and US tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris.
  • In Slovakia, the agricultural minister Zsolt Simon was recently reported to be the owner of a company that got 1.3 million in subsidies in 2003 and 2004.
  • In Flanders, Credit Agricole Bank, Nestle, Campina and BASF were among the top beneficiaries
    In the UK, Oxfam figures have shown that the British Royal family was a big recipient of subsidies, as was sugar giant Tate & Lyle.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Matthew Grainger in the UK on +44 1865-339128 or +44(0)7730-680837
Louis Belanger, Oxfam Press Officer in Brussels on +32 2 502 03 91 or +32 4 73 562 260