The View from France: Farmers and food processors in Brittany, France took to the streets this week in protest against the current jobs crisis in the region and against the new ecotax, due to be implemented on the 1st January 2014.

In a week when a number of redundancies in the Breton food industry have been confirmed, the ecotax is seen as the last straw for a sector already in severe difficulty.

On Wednesday, in solidarity with the Breton food processors all of the stores of the three independent multiples, Leclerc, Système U and Intermarché located in the Brittany region closed from 9am to 10am. Food producers and processors in the region maintain that they will be at a disadvantage compared to imported product as they will have to pay the ecotax at each stage of the production chain.

The Food industry in Brittany is estimated to have lost up to 7,000 jobs so far this year, representing approx. Some 10 per cent of the agri-food workforce in this region, heavily dependent on agriculture.

The Department of Transport has already allowed a 50 per cent rebate on the new ecotax for transport within Brittany, given it is a remote peninsula and that currently there is a toll-free road network in place in this region, however processors are adamant to have all 10 ecotax radars removed from Brittany and have vandalised two of these during the recent strikes.

Rumours persist as to how the new legislation will be enforced for foreign hauliers, with some saying that a three year extension may be given for foreign registered HGVs.

By Noreen Lanigan, Paris Office Manager, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board