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Salon de l’Agriculture 2024: a 60th edition at the heart of the agricultural political crisis

Salon de l’Agriculture 2024: a 60th edition at the heart of the agricultural political crisis

From February 24 to March 3, the Agriculture Fair will allow actors from the agricultural world to meet the general public at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. As the government tries to ease the agricultural crisis, numerous activities are planned. An exclusive area for professionals, a hackathon with Mistral AI, a photo retrospective, and other new features are planned to celebrate the 60th edition of the Fair.

The International Agriculture Show (SIA) will take over the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles from February 24 to March 3.

More than 1000 exhibitors from 30 countries will gather. Each year, in addition to about a hundred protocol visitors, traditionally including the President of the Republic, 1% of the French population (around 600,000 visitors) attend the event. Given the recent demands of farmers, the Fair promises to be eventful. To soothe tensions, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, February 21, accompanied by the Minister of Economy and Agriculture.

At this new SIA, 4,000 animals, representing 378 different breeds, including some quite exotic ones such as the Asian yak, the zebu, or the camel, will set foot in Paris. During this annual meeting between the agricultural sector actors and the population, 390 events will be held, including demonstrations, contests, and of course, what everyone looks forward to, tastings.

A team of “dehydrators” will wander the halls to ensure hydration (with free water) of visitors to absorb the alcohol consumed and prevent excesses.

Sheep ©Agriculture Fair

A meeting between professionals and AI on the farm

For the 60th edition of the Fair, a new space has been added, SIA’PRO, exclusively reserved for professionals from February 25 to 27.

Another innovation: the first hackathon on Generative Artificial Intelligence applied to agriculture will take place from February 26 to 27. Organized by Mistral AI, the French unicorn competitor of ChatGPT, and the La Ferme Digitale association, the event’s mission will be to apply technological innovations to agricultural issues such as deciphering norms and regulations, herd management, crop driving, buying and selling agricultural products as well as training and transmission of agricultural professions. Today, 814,000 French people have a permanent job in this sector.

On February 25 from 10 am to 12 pm, experts will exchange during a TEDx conference entitled “a world in motion“.

Retrospective and Contest

For the 60th anniversary of the SIA, an iconographic retrospective in collaboration with Paris Match was displayed on the Champs Elysées until February 15. It will be accessible again at the Salon and available for sale in the form of a beautiful book: “The most beautiful encounters are natural: 60 editions of the International Agricultural Show”

The legendary General Agricultural Competition will showcase the finest animals and the best products (wine and 20 regional products). This year, new products, namely sauerkraut, salted butter caramel, non-alcoholic beer, and Solliès extra fig jam, join the existing categories. Every year, sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, horses, donkeys, and dogs parade in a ring throughout the Salon to win one of the Competition’s prizes under the amazed eyes of city dwellers of all ages gathered for the event.

Cattle Contest ©Salon de l’Agriculture

1 “Leather Experience”: to discover the upstream trades and know-how.

2 “The Leather Library”: a sensory experience to explore different leather textures.

3 “Interactive Screen”: to understand the cycle of animal co-products and the ecosystem as a whole.

4 “The Leather Genius Quiz”: to test your knowledge and win prizes.

5 “Make your leather calf workshop”: to leave with your own leather keychain.

France ranks as the third-largest exporter of leather goods, skins, and hides worldwide. The 12,800 companies in the sector generated over €25 billion in revenue in 2022, including €18 billion from exports.

An Uncertain Political Situation

Passionate men and women, incomparable products, known and recognized know-how, strong initiatives, superb animals, lively debates, and numerous politicians will thus make us proud, and I hope, you too. It’s not about ignoring that our sector is experiencing upheavals, but rather to remind its vital importance for France and the rest of the world,” emphasizes Jean-Luc Poulain, farmer, president of the CENECA (National Centre for Agricultural Exhibitions and Competitions) and president of the Salon.

Since the beginning of 2024, farmers have been expressing their anger through regular mobilizations and actions reaching the doors of the international market of Rungis, last January 31. According to INSEE, 20% of agricultural households live below the poverty threshold (estimated between 965 euros and 1,158 euros per month). Breeders are the most disadvantaged, earning on average 945 euros per month.

Politicians often relay this grim statistic: 1 French farmer commits suicide every two days. Dating from 2016, it has not been updated since. But it reflects a very real tragedy. The Agricultural Social Mutuality published a report in July 2023 noting that in 2020, “the healthcare consumption of the agricultural regime from 15 to 64 years old has a suicide mortality risk 30.9% higher than that of insured individuals from all regimes,” climbing to 77.3% among farm owners. In France, with 416,000 farms, the agricultural sector is crucial for the economy but also for food sovereignty. Farmers denounce unfair competition due to different standards applied in countries with which France and Europe have concluded free trade agreements. Distributors hold the upper hand in price negotiations, leaving producers with no option but to sell at low prices despite inflation and notably the increase in electricity that directly affects them.

The Government Aims to Reassure

This February 21, three days before the start of the Agricultural Show, Gabriel Attal gave a press conference at Matignon to reassure farmers. A real operation to defuse the agricultural crisis threatening the ceremonial visits planned for the occasion of the SIA.

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Farmers from Tarn already mobilized last November 14th in Albi ©Emilie Cayre

We will not lie, we will not betray,” the Prime Minister assured. He announced several measures, including strengthening the Egalim law aimed at ensuring fair remuneration for farmers, revaluing the profession by placing agriculture “among the fundamental interests of the nationand to facilitate the arrival of foreign workers. He also declared the abandonment of the current indicator for measuring the reduction of pesticide use defended by NGOs but not applied in European countries. “In three weeks, we have concluded 8 out of 10 commitments” he boasted, going back to his list of 62 commitments in favor of farmers.

The day before, Emmanuel Macron met with Arnaud Rousseau, president of the FNSEA and the president of the Young Farmers, Pierrick Horel, to discuss the situation. “We expect speeches and direct exchanges with the farmers. It’s not about him strolling through the aisles, as usual,” Arnaud Rousseau said following his meeting with the President of the Republic.

On Monday, February 19, about forty tractors paraded in the center of Marseille, other actions have been carried out since the beginning of the week in Chalons-en Champagne, Reims, Dunkirk, and other cities. In Spain, hundreds of farmers go to Madrid, the agricultural crisis concerning several European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, or Greece.

We are finalizing a device to lighten the taxes and social charges of breeders whose livestock value increases, notably due to inflation. In total, 150 million euros will be mobilized for our breeders, also, with the measure taking effect this year“, declared Gabriel Attal.

Following the Prime Minister’s press conference on February 21, Serge Bousquet-Cassagne, president of the Rural Coordination of Lot-et-Garonne, for his part estimated on BFM that the Agricultural Show was going to “go badly“.

Announcements by Gabriel Attal: the Agricultural Show “is going to go badly” assures Serge Bousquet-Cassagne (president of the Rural Coordination of 47)

— BFMTV (@BFMTV) February 21, 2024

The bill of orientation keeps being modified, we don’t really know where we stand. We want clear orientations: how will sovereignty translate in the installations, the transmissions of farms? We are waiting for clear announcements from the President of the Republic at the Agricultural Show,” declared to AFP Yohann Barbe, spokesperson for the FNSEA while still welcoming “certain advances” and “the recognitionof the sector.


Featured Photo: ©Thierry Lindauer