France announces €200m plan to boost home-grown fruit and vegetables

France's agriculture minister has announced a €200 million investment plan to increase French consumption of home-grown fruit and vegetables.

France announces €200m plan to boost home-grown fruit and vegetables
Strawberries from local producers near Paris displayed on a stall in French Chef Amandine Chaignot's "Pouliche" restaurant in 2020 (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

Just a few days after the visits of French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, France’s Agriculture Minister, Marc Fesneau spent time at France’s largest farm show – the Salon de l’Agriculture – on Wednesday where he outlined a €200 million “sovereignty plan” to increase consumption of home-grown fruit and vegetables.

According to Europe 1, only half of fruit and vegetables eaten in France are grown here, a figure that the minister wants to increase.

“When it comes to fruit and vegetables, we have had a loss of sovereignty across all parts of this market”, the minister said at the Salon de l’Agriculture.

READ MORE: French farmers: Politicians must help us with drought and climate crisis

Laurent Grandin, the head of Interfel – the joint-sector organisation for fruit and vegetables – told BFMTV “we are at a crossroads”. He explained that the plan hopes to regain at least 10 percent of the market share for fruit and vegetables grown in France within the next 10 to 15 years.

The €200 million investment plan will take place over several years, with the objective of helping to make crop production better and more efficient. Grandin told BFMTV that this could include more funding for research and development, plans to modernise greenhouses and new techniques for fighting against pests while simultaneously lowering the use of pesticides, such as protective nets and weeding robots. 

Part of the plan is also to encourage French people to eat more vegetables generally – the minister said the goal would be for at least two-thirds of French adults to eat five fruits or vegetables daily. Currently, under half of the population manages to do so. 

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Could your French baguette taste a little different in future?

The baguette is an enduring feature of life in France, where some 320 baguettes are consumed every single second. New rules mean they might taste slightly different in future but at least they will be healthier.

Could your French baguette taste a little different in future?

Breakfast, lunch or dinner… there is never a bad time to eat a baguette in France. 

And the good news is: they are about to become healthier. From October 1st, new regulations mean that baguettes sold in bakeries should contain no more than 1.4g of salt per 100g, down from the current legal limit of 1.5g of salt per 100g.

The salt content in French baguettes sold in bakeries has already plummeted by 20 percent since 2015. 

The new rules form part of a wider government strategy to reduce salt consumption in France by 30 percent by 2025. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged all countries to follow the same target in a bid to reduce health problems such as hypertension. 

WHO guidelines say that adults should not consume more than 5g of salt per day, but the average French adult consumes between 7-8g. 

France’s National Confederation of Bakers is on board with the incoming regulations and acknowledges that bread contributes to about 20% of the average French person’s salt intake. 

Will this change the taste of baguettes? 

The salt content change is only very marginal – 0.1g per 100g – so it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the taste of baguettes.

The National Confederation of Bakers has said that the new rules will impose a “real challenge” to bakers who will now have to adjust other elements of their recipe to make a like-for-like product. “There are alternative solutions such as live sourdough, extra yeast or yeast extracts that can be used to compensate for the reduced salt content,” it said.  

It said that slightly adjusting the temperature at which the baguettes are baked could also go some way to compensating for this loss.

Other bread products also affected

It is not just traditional baguettes that will be affected by the new regulations. 

So-called pains spéciaux will also see a new salt threshold imposed of 1.3g per 100g. 

Pains spéciaux are breads that either use grains and flour distinct from those used to make traditional baguettes or plain white bread.

Examples include le pain de campagne (which uses regular wheat alongside rye sourdough), les pains au levain (sourdough breads), le pain complet (wholemeal bread), les pains aux céréales (which use multiple varieties of wheat) and les pains aux grains (which are generally covered in things like sesame or pumpkin seeds). 

The National Confederation of Bakers has said that various analyses and tests would be performed using samples taken from bakeries all over France, to ensure that salt limits for both pains spéciaux and pains traditionnels were being respected.