Fleury-Michon, Chanel… Who really owns French farmland?

Margaux Fodéré, edited by Romain Rouillard

More and more farmers are renting their land from investors who sometimes have no connection with the environment. While some fear the destruction of jobs and damage to the environment, others prefer to emphasize the higher remuneration granted to the employees of these companies.

French agricultural land owned by agribusiness companies. This is the trend revealed by a report from the citizen movement Terre de Liens. While previously the majority of French agricultural land belonged to farmers and their families, the latter are increasingly renting their land, sometimes from non-agricultural investors. So-called “financialized agricultural companies” concern nearly one in ten farms to date.

For example, Fleury-Michon has a piglet farm while Chanel acquires land for the flowers of its perfumes. Other investors, particularly Chinese, are also grabbing plots. Although all these new buyers only control 14% of French agricultural land, this figure has been rising sharply for several years, as pointed out by Tanguy Martin of the Terres de Liens association, a network of associations that supports farmers in their access to Earth.

“Nothing predicts that it will not continue if nothing is put in place”

“These players have doubled the area they own in 30 years. Today, nothing predicts that it will not continue if nothing is put in place,” he believes. Better control access to land by these companies or limit intensive practices – which, according to the association, can lead to the destruction of agricultural jobs and damage to the environment, may be part of the solutions to consider.

However, according to Xavier Hollandts, expert in agricultural businesses at Kedge Business School, the picture is not so bleak. “For the employees of these agricultural companies, we have better working conditions which allow them to optimize their working time and their remuneration”. Higher wages while a quarter of farmers now earn the equivalent of the RSA.