The image was shocked. On Saturday, more than 1,500 tons of wheat were dumped on the tracks by activists who attacked a freight train moving through central Brittany. Actions that are supposed to target soybean trains and blame “brittany factory livestock”. Everywhere, the image of wheat wasted on trucks made the political class and agricultural unions jump. In Breton’s countryside, Operation Punch is clearly struggling to get through. Because agriculture in France and Europe has been panicked since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. With tanks and missiles, Russia is martyring people. But it is also compromised by soaring gas, fuel and grain, weakening the entire food chain of the planet. Armed conflict affecting all farms. And especially in the first French agricultural areas.
The gas is burning and the tomatoes are cold
Gas did not wait for the invasion of Russian tanks into Ukraine to ignite. However, prices have literally skyrocketed since the invasion organized by Vladimir Putin. In the countryside of Breton, it is difficult to collect pain. “Prices have increased tenfold, it’s crazy,” Hervé Conan testifies. The garden farmer is based in Paimpol, Côtes d’Amour, and grows cabbage, potatoes and squash in the open field. But also the tomatoes he grows in a heated greenhouse. “Usually it costs between 60,000 and 100,000 euros per hectare. So we were able to reach a million. That is impossible!”
Some of his aides have opted to cancel the plant order and start later. “They were still paying for their plants, but they were still winners.” He chose to lower the temperature of the greenhouse a bit. But he knows that he runs the risk of seeing the disease (fungus) invite himself to his farm, especially because of the humidity. Production will also be reduced. “By heating, it significantly limits (chemical) processing,” he explains. “I’m worried about the long term. I don’t know how it will affect the sale price,” says Hervé Conan.
Grains are racing and animals are hungry
Breeders cannot do the same with animal food if gardeners can lower the temperature in the greenhouse. Soaring grain prices are causing concern in this sector. When cows go to the fields, the problem is enormous for pigs raised on the ground. Pigs are 100% dependent on the feed that breeders purchase from co-operatives. “It cost +100 euros per ton. Last year it was 300 euros, which is a huge increase,” explains Didierukas, a pig breeder in Santa Luban near Lamballe (Côtes d’Amall). This shock is enormous for the sector, where the cost per kilogram of meat rises by 40 cents. Today, this famous kilo is trading at Prelan’s Cadran market for around € 1.50. This shows the importance of wheat development.
Especially in this profession, 2021 was a dark year, so many breeders have suffered huge losses. “That’s terrible. Prices have to return to more than 2 euros per kilo, otherwise …” warned the chairman of the Côtes d’Amour Agricultural Council.
Spain, a major European pork producer, has “a month’s worth of grain inventories.” The Finistere-based President of the Andre Sergent Regional Agricultural Council is concerned about the potential for global famine due to lack of ingredients such as wheat, sunflowers and soybeans. “What will happen in the coming months? France, Europe’s leading grain producer, uses one-third of its production (about 21 million tonnes) for animal feed.
Russian fertilizers have seen prices rising
In Brittany, another issue awaits traditional agriculture. It is mostly manufactured in Russian and Ukrainian factories in the fertilizer supply. Armed conflict has already pushed up prices, raising fears of short-term shortages. According to our information, the price of fertilizer has already tripled. Faced with this situation, many operators have decided to limit their input. “We sometimes put less in the ditch we plant,” Breton’s garden farmer slips. He, like everyone else, will probably be a little less produced this year.