France and Farming

So, what has France done for farming? Given us the evil CAP

As far as I am concerned, Jacques Chirac can say what he likes about British food. He can slag off haggis. I hold no brief for haggis. He can even make jokes about mad cow disease, though souls angrier than mine might say that was pretty odious, given that French politicians assisted in the £5 billion destruction of the British beef industry, when they knew our cattle were perfectly safe to eat.

Jolly old Jacques can crack jokes about the British weather, and I won’t mind in the least. He can laugh at our pear-shaped women, our bad teeth, our warm beer, our malevolent newspapers, our obsession with nannies and hot water bottles and custard and la vice anglaise.

He can go about the bars of the G8, Nato, the UN, the World Wildlife Fund, and say anything he pleases, and that is because he is an increasingly ludicrous figure. From being “le bulldozer”, the brutal énarque who out-fought and outlasted his opposition, he has evolved into a kind of snarling, brilliantined Monsieur Hulot, a world specialist in the diplomatic prat-fall and coq-up.

He was somehow bamboozled by Tony Blair into holding a referendum on the European constitution, and then by a series of goofs and gaffes he managed to persuade the French people – the French who were responsible for the very conception of the EU – to throw it out, plunging the EU into crisis and allowing Tony Blair to walk away beaming from the train wreck. Zut alors!

And was that the end of his diplomatic ineptitude?

It was not. It has been a common assumption around the world for at least two years that France was due to get the Olympic games in 2012. Paris has a fantastic stadium, and it seems only fair, given that the French last hosted the Olympics in 1924 and the British in 1948. Simple justice should surely have given the prize to Chirac, rather than Blair.

So what does he do, this magnificent prangmeister, on the eve of the crucial vote? He is caught making some crass remarks about haggis and mad cow disease, and asserting that British food is second only in filthiness to Finland’s.

I have no idea how Finland voted in the final rubber of the negotiations, but we cannot exclude the possibility that the Finnish delegate had a mild sense of humour failure and decided to vindicate the honour of the national dish (deep-fried reindeer sweetbreads and honey), by anti-voting Paris.

It was buffoonery, and whatever words Jacques Tati, né Chirac, uses to congratulate London and Tony Blair on their success, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh. The whole Chirac experience is becoming comic, except for one thing: he is still President of France, and he still believes – against all the evidence – that France has somehow done all of us a favour by creating the Common Agricultural Policy.

Yes, we British did have mad cow disease (though the true incidence of BSE in France was never revealed), but whatever damage was caused by that outbreak, it was nothing next to the catastrophe of the continuing system of EU subsidies and tariffs. And for most of the past 30 years it is worth remembering that the EU’s senior agricultural official, the director-general of directorate-general VI, has been French, and the system has been designed in all essential respects to further the interests of French farmers.

Nowhere have the baleful effects of that system been more evident than in Africa, in whose name Chirac and the rest of the G8 will today beat their breasts in sympathetic ecstasy.

Africa has become the great landscape of the conscience, the last haven for the altruism we feel reluctant to show to our neighbours in Britain and the rest of the developed world. That is why Africa is to be given debt relief, which will no doubt do some good, not least to the Mercedes-Benz dealerships which can expect fresh orders from the various thugs and crooks whose position in power will thereby be entrenched.

But there is a better and more immediate thing that we could do for Africa, and that is to begin the work that France has so far refused, and undo the evil of the CAP.

Let us take one example, Mozambique, by some estimates the poorest country on earth, where average earnings per year are £300, less than M Chirac might expect to pay to take four people out to dinner at a posh Paris restaurant.

Mozambique is heavily dependent on its production of sugar, and with an ideal climate and low costs one might think that the Mozambiquans could make a go of it. As things are, the Mozambique sugar industry loses about £20 million a year, the equivalent of the country’s entire agriculture budget. Why? Because the price of sugar in Europe is kept at three times the price on the world market, by two criminal expedients.

First, sugar from Mozambique and elsewhere in the Third world faces tariffs of about 324 per cent; and second because the European taxpayer pays for any surplus European sugar to be dumped on the world market.

Under this amazing regime, the EU produces 17 million tonnes of sugar, consumes only 12 million tonnes, and sends the rest overseas – to compete with whatever Mozambique can produce – with a subsidy of 525 euros per tonne. It is utterly cynical; there is no sign of any proper reform, and it was, of course, the French who devised the system, in 1968, with the help of Sicco Mansholt, a Dutch commissioner.

That is the French contribution to European agriculture, and though it is fair to say that there are quite a few British sugar barons who are doing very nicely out of it, the French get the most subsidy, and the French are preventing any real reform.

If Jacques Chirac really wants to begin to repair his international reputation, he can forget about eating some penitential haggis at Gleneagles.

Show us you are a statesman, Jacques, and not just a clown, and scrap the CAP.

32 thoughts on “France and Farming”

  1. Oddly enough, the European sugar beet industry was started by the French in Napoleonic times, to beat the British blocade of sugar (and other products) from the West Indies. Was it a French plot all along?

  2. C6H12O22. France had bitter pills to swallow, of more than one sort and degree of bitterness; so, to paraphrase what the Nanny( so ridiculed by the man himself), once so famously said, “Poppin a spoonful of sugar Jacques, and you’ll be able to take your medicine” .A mere Pappagai; a popinjay; the strutting supercilious leader of a country , whose fermiers are virtually ungovernable , and from whom he has the most to fear. Deep gloom. Vive la liberte Brittanique! Courage mes braves…..

  3. Sorry to go off topic but I wanted to express my outrage – but not surprise – at the terrorist offensive in London.

    I am sure we can rely on Boris to understand the nature of the attack and to make sensible statements on the subject.

    I note Tony Blair says the terrorists will not lead us to surrender our values. Well one of our values is free speech and the freedom to criticise Islam IS being taken away from us. If this is an Al Queda attack then it has to be recognised it is a religiously motivated attack – part of the global Jihad. Ken Livingstone’s speech incidentally was an absolute disgrace. He seemed to be suggesting that had the attack been targetted on political leaders or people with economic power that would have been an acceptable form of protest. He said the terrorists did not even represent an ideology or a “perverted faith”. Absolute nonsense. The terrorists do represent a perverted faith and an ideology – it is Jihadist Islam and we are a prime target.

    Only the marvellous work of the security services has protected us thus far. It was always going to come to an end at some point. Now people are going to have to grow up and start asking some serious questions about what is motivating these people who want to kill and maim us.

  4. I only have 2 minutes online, courtesy of my faulty ISP. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in London and indeed the whole of the UK.
    I’m deeply shocked.

  5. “Was it a French plot all along?”
    I wouldn’t put it past them.

    On a more serious note though, shocking developments. I was in Central London just last night, and was due to be going in again tonight. Needless to say I will now not be bothering.
    It seems, at this early point, that actual casualties may be fairly low, and that the incidents are mainly causing pure disruption, but either way, it is utterly shocking.
    Maybe someone is too stupid to work out Gleaneagles is not in London.

  6. We’re all fine – in our bunker – all quite sobering and casualties looking quite high

    Let’s hope there are no further bomb blasts

  7. Glad you are ok! What a day, still it was really good too see how people were taking things in their stride so well. The worst ‘panic’ I’ve heard was a muffled swear word and a saunter off to the pub to await the restarting of the trains. GOtta love this city.

  8. Good article Boris – agree with you entirely.

    Such dreadful news today in London. Sympathies to all those affected by this cruelty. Can I please say that the emergency services seemed to be doing a fantastic job.

    From the news coverage Boris it seemed that getting out of the trains and then the underground stations was of concern. This is not the first problem with train doors not opening – perhaps the manufacturers need a little push to include some sort of manual/emergency device in future.

  9. You’re right Jaq – and how lovely to hear from you again. We ought to look at this train door opening system closely.

  10. Hello Boris, please God do not be like those ghastly Northern people, especially Liverpudlians and their ugly brothers Mancunians and do not be mawkish in our time of grief.
    I was a bit annoyed at Liz having the flag at half mast to be honest.
    We’re Londoners and you don’t show outporings of grief.
    There’s money to be made and life goes on.

  11. “From the news coverage Boris it seemed that getting out of the trains and then the underground stations was of concern. This is not the first problem with train doors not opening – perhaps the manufacturers need a little push to include some sort of manual/emergency device in future.”

    A number of reports I saw said that people had managed to open doors and smash windows, but were too scared they’d be electorcuted if they got out.

  12. Our long-anticipated nightmare materialised in London yesterday. But it was still a big shock to hear about the blasts on the tube and particularly that double-decker bus: see the pictures on several front pages this morning.

    The emergency services did a really good job and must have witnessed unbelievably traumatic sights. Personally I was moved by the texts that people sent to check that we were OK. Must be terrible for those who aren’t.

    The West End Blood Donation Centre is at Margaret Street (near OxfordCircu) on 0207 301 6900.

  13. Fox: I do not recall any mawkishness on the part of the Manchester folk when the IRA blasted the heart out of the city a mere few years ago. The contrary was true: they got on with the job in hand with no hint of self pity; righteous anger,yes: self pity: no…. I would suggest that there are but few of your sort in the capital, and long may that state of affairs remain.

    To the remainder of the people in the in Great Capital, my
    sincerest condolences.

  14. With regards to the message posted by ‘Macarnie’, Mr Livingstone is perhaps the leader on my list of ‘highly annoying people who should be shipped off to an island far far away’ but his speech on July the 7th was humble and human and in no way a ‘disgrace’. He simply reminded those who would be quick to say this attack was aimed at sending a message to presidents and prime ministers that is did no such thing, it was simply an indiscriminate attack on innocent people.
    It is unfair to critise this mans actions, he had just found out that his city had been bombed, and like all other Londoners, like everyone else around the country, he was shocked, afraid and sickened.
    Now is time for understanding and not ridicule.

  15. So it is unfair that the poor eastern European member countries should finance the British rebate, the same poor countries which subsidise French farmenrs…

  16. So we must support all lame duck economies; regardless of intent?
    The poorest countries in the now 25 strong , rurally protected cartel; will , as is their expectation, be helped, in various degrees, out of the mire of previously accepted ,even if without enthusiasm, Socialistic sinecurism. Europe will , given a fair crack of the whip, prosper; and that without any excessively unfair burden on those States which are net contributors. The French , despite their government’s inability to deal with their farmers, must be made to realise that profligacy and inefficiency do not pay ,

  17. As far back as the sixties, de Gaulle didn’t want to let the UK into the common market, as he knew they wanted to destroy the CAP and sefeguard their “cheap food policy”.

    Mind you, one of the reasons he gave publicly was: “ils boivent du thé”.

  18. As an avid tea drinker with many years with experience of tea drinking in many countries, I must say that the gallant misguided Frenchman,” Le nez”, to his acquaintances,( he had no friends),whose burden in life was , that he always had to look down the tremedous length of said appendage, in order to see at all; was a born anti-Anglo-Saxonist( whatever that meant or means.) His A-A-S genes,( above), still active and flourishing, years after his demise, are taken in through the very air breathed in the President’s Elysee Palace . I do not think there has been one French leader who had a good word for the tea drinkers of this world: they are lumped together and seen as effete Englishmen, no doubt to the horror of the Irish; and other heavy tea drinkers. Buveurs du the du monde! Unifiez!

  19. Monsieur Chirac is also WRONG about British food. He’s just jealous because the British attempts at the most important meal of the day (Breakfast, obviously) beats the jam off the continental.

    France has some excellent produce…world class, in fact. They then take this and make it all taste of wine, garlic, and onions. Fools!

    I bet his Yorkshire puds always come out flat…hence his bitterness!


  20. Anyone who descends to such cheap jibes with nothing more substantial to say is just making himself ridiculous. What did Boz say about him? something like: ‘it would take a heart of stone not to laugh’

  21. Small point of order; on Breakfast this morning it was mentioned that the cost of eating in whichever French restaurant it was they featured, which has got 3 Michelin stars, is about 200-300 per head. Which would mean that anyone dining there would spend the wage of your average Mozambique worker each. A shocking statement, and one without any justification except greed.

  22. Oh what a magnificent article! Just what we wanted,a good old rant at the French! Fabulous. But it raises some interesting points. Thanks to Blair and Labour, we have no agriculture anyway.
    Can’t wait until the next article. Should be a cracker!
    Best wishes Boris

  23. We most certainly have mechanised , efficient agriculturalists, big farmers,They are,( nearly all ), thank goodness, prosperous;they husband the landscape, as well as the fields of produce, both animal and vegetable. Without these farmers the countryside would be a whole lot the poorer.

    We cannot go back to tne era of the horse driven implements,( not quite yet anyway,) even though the idyllic postcard views, from way back then, were so beautiful: not to mention J .Constable’s wonderful, pre mechanisation landscapes. On the other hand , the poor hill farmer has to rely on subsidies. The terrain,and weather, much as it hurts me to admit it, is hardly B Liar’s fault, though , if he were given a chance, he would probably add to their burden , by appointing another totally unsuitable token person as Minister for Bothies and allotments.

  24. hey- hey Edward – let’s not be too anti-French… or xenophobic for that matter, we are just trying to preserve what precious few interests we have in this country

  25. I just returned from holiday in a rural area of France, and every farmer has at least two tractors (of the extremely large variety) and a combine harvester (yes, those huge things). Plus I’ve never seen more top-of-the-range Mercedes cars in my life.

  26. Why do you think that they are so against the reform of the FFEP, oh oh! That should hsve read CAP. The FFEP is the French Farmers Enrichment Policy, whatever was I thinking about?

  27. If one slightly changes the punctuation of that part of the lead line, ” So, what has France done for farming?” to, “So what! Has France done for farming?” The answers would differ slightly. To the first question , the answer is as stated above, ” Given us the hated CAP”.
    The simple answer to the second question , is ,”Yes.” It is now 200 years , give or take a year or two, since the sugar subsidy was introduced by the Napoleonic regime, and they are still at it, leeching the last sou out of everyone elses’ pockets, including all those sugar producers in Africa and other third world countries. Sugar beet is big business, and it pays. Why must Europes’ constant overproduction be subsidised, at the cost to the third world?

  28. Boris, do not be surprised by French attitude to the E.U and its rules, those rules are for others, not France, she breaks them at will ( British beef, stability pact etc ad nauseum). A retired Belgian diplomat told me 19 years ago, sitting in a yacht cockpit in St Malo on a hot summers evening ‘George, remember my words, The E.E.C. (as it was then)was set up by the French, for the benefit of the French and as long as you remember that, all else over the years will fall into place’.
    Well my belgian sailing mate has been dead some ten years now, but I have never forgotten his words, they are proved over and over by the passage of time. Will the E.U as an institution survive if (God forbid) France ever became a net contributer and stopped sponging of her neighbours?

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