The French government reacted very quickly to Alimentation Couche-Tard’s friendly offer to buy Carrefour.
Moreover, in the wake of his interventions, various political figures quickly mentioned that such a transaction would be a threat to the food security of the French.
Porridge for cats, period.
First, food security is defined in different ways. But when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for active and healthy lives, a nation has indeed reached its threshold of safety. food.
Of course, none of this can be done without a functioning food distribution, and the Carrefour chain, based in France, is the seventh largest food distributor in the world.
The Carrefour model
Carrefour generates the majority of its turnover outside the French country, and some of its successful ideas, such as its hypermarkets, have been inspired by models from elsewhere. The activities of the distribution and retail sectors, like catering for that matter, are carried out in a dynamic context that is always in transition.
Marketing strategies have changed a lot in recent decades, which is why Carrefour is present in more than 30 countries.
Non-French consumers consider Carrefour’s offer to be amply acceptable for their needs, because it offers them abundance, superior quality and affordable prices.
Canadians do not hesitate to buy from Walmart and Costco, which, by the way, sell a lot of Quebec and Canadian products. The number of local products has increased in recent years, as consumers demand it. These are the laws of the market.
If, on the contrary, Metro were sold, for example, Quebecers could sleep peacefully. However, the political class, for its part, including the excited farmers of the Union des producteurs agricoles, would surely cry wolf by making all kinds of excuses to express their concerns.
Heaven, Quebec did it for the hammers at Réno-Dépôt! Certainly there is room for such nonsense in the food industry. In other words, Alimentation Couche-Tard has tasted Quebec medicine, but in Europe.
But, more seriously, the very meaning of food security takes on a whole new dimension as soon as we get closer to the land or the farm. There will always be some political sensitivity when agriculture is the subject of a foreign transaction.
The Harper government blocked the Australian giant BHP Billiton’s bid for Potash Corp in 2011, and it was just potash. Since the land cannot be made a valuable resource, governments always exercise extreme caution with farmland, and with good reason.
Food processing, the sector’s strategic anchor point, must also arouse awareness. For the food security of a nation, it is also a priority. A significant domestic transformation allows the sector to protect itself against currency fluctuations and trade tensions between countries which lead to embargoes and restrictions.
But often our governments forget it. Agropur, a gem of the sacred milk sector in Quebec, has just sold its large yogurt division to the French multinational Lactalis, and in Quebec, nothing has been done. Intellectual property, the innovation created by Agropur, now belongs to the French.
But we are only 38 million in Canada, one of the largest countries in the world. Canada must attract investors from outside, including to support our agri-food sector. So we still have to keep an open mind. But, as far as transformation is concerned, the vigilance of our political authorities has rarely been present in recent years.
♦ Dr Sylvain Charlebois, Full Professor Faculty of Management and Agriculture Dalhousie University