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French press review 21 June 2018

The world's farmers are being put out of business by the world's supermarkets, who now control the global trade in food. The French government plans to sell-off more of its holdings in big business. The Hungarian parliament votes to make helping migrants a criminal offence. And the truth about the impact of immigration on the French economy.


The charity Oxfam says the world's farmers and food producers have seen their incomes decline over the past two decades, while the big supermarket chains have been making huge profits.

Supermarkets now control the global trade in food, says the Oxfam report, published yesterday and analysed by Le Monde. Farmers are squeezed between a need to keep costs down and an ever-increasing demand for high-quality produce.

The report calculates that the globe's top eight supermarket chains made a profit of 22 billion dollars in 2016, on a turnover of 1,000 billion. Instead of reinvesting some of that money to help producers, says Oxfam, the profits go instead to shareholders.

The poor prices paid by the big chains lead to human rights and labour law violations. Some farmers suffer food shortages as they struggle to produce for the supermarkets.

Ninety percent of the food sold in French supermarkets is controlled by five distribution groups, says Le Monde, giving them an unbeatable power over producers. A law is currently being prepared witth a view to balancing the share of profits between growers and sellers.

Great French government sell-off continues

Business daily Les Echos reports that the French government intends to continue selling off state holdings in major companies, with the telecom company Orange, Air France and various big names in the automobile sector likely to be next on the auction block.

Les Echos says the government needs the money such sell-offs will bring in to pay off the 35 billion euro debt run up by the national rail operator SNCF.

The major danger is China, which recently tried to buy control of the Portuguese national electricity company, EDP. The finance ministry in Paris says it is keeping a close eye on the situation, without specifying what, if anything, it could do to prevent a Chinese takeover of, say, Air France.

If you're Hungarian, don't help migrants

Yesterday, the Hungarian parliament voted massively in favour of a law making it a crime to help migrants.

Thanks to the combined forces of the party of prime minister Viktor Orban and the nationalists, 160 deputies of the 178 present supported legislation that, as Le Monde puts it, other European far right movements can only dream of.

Non-governmental organisations are now barred from an 8 kilometre band along Hungary's Schengen border, for which Budapest is responsible in the name of all countries in Europe's passport-free zone.

And yesterday's law also declares that the refugee quotas established by the European Union are contrary to the Hungarian constitution.

Viktor Orban's government granted temporary asylum to a total of 105 people last year. They had 3,390 applications, down from nearly thirty thousand the year before.

The truth about migration

Right-wing daily Le Figaro looks at the medium-term impact of immigration in France, saying that even the small numbers of young, unqualified workers being allowed in are going to have a dramatic effect on the labour market, especially in the construction and agriculture sectors.

Germany, Austria and Sweden are likely to be the worst affected, since they currently accept the greatest numbers of migrants. The Germans are likely to see their active population grow by 0.8 percent. In France the impact is expected to be ten times less significant.

Le Figaro says European governments need to train their own unskilled, poorly educated workers, and also find ways of using the skills of the immigrants, often highly qualified.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development points out that, in the medium term, the impact of refugees on the situation of native-born workers has always been very slight, or even positive.

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