Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Poultry from Ukraine is gaining ground in Europe, but should imports be curbed?

< p>Ukrainian chicken is gaining ground in Europe

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French chicken sells for around 7 euros per kilo, while that of Ukraine enters Europe for only 3 euros per kilo.

  • Tamara Altéresco (View profile)Tamara Altéresco

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As farmers rise up in Europe, the president of France has pledged to his people to regulate imports of Ukrainian chicken, which have more than doubled in Europe.

Michel Larrère is barely recovering from the sleepless nights he spent in his tractor blocking motorways in France in early February. p>

Fortunately I had my son to take care of the chickens, because I was busy with union activities, said this farmer as he opened the door to his henhouse for us.

Mr. Larrère is the local representative of the largest agricultural union in France, the FNSEA, and spent ten days on the barricades to defend the profession that has sustained his family from father to son for 60 years.

There, we really made everyone react, we are waiting for action, says the farmer, whose voice is almost buried by the clucking of his birds.

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French breeder Michel Larrère produces entry-level chicken, like that of Ukraine, but he must comply with European standards .

But if, like thousands of French farmers, he has the feeling of having been heard and understood, nothing is still settled in the kingdom of chicken. Far from it.

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The reality remains that one in two chickens are consumed in France today comes from abroad, which enrages Mr. Larrère. There is chicken from Brazil, Thailand, the Netherlands and Poland, to which is now added that from Ukraine.

The war may be far from his peaceful farm that we visited in the Landes region, in the southwest of France, but his chickens are suffering the direct consequences.

My chicken is the same as Ukrainian chicken. In fact, I often say that I produce Ukrainian chicken in France, because I am in direct competition, except that we have quality standards.

A quote from Michel Larrère, chicken breeder

These production standards imposed by Europe and France, Ukrainian producers do not have to respect them, even if they export now in Europe without tariffs or quotas, a measure that the European Union adopted as a gesture of solidarity to support Ukraine's economy.

We have nothing against solidarity, but Ukrainian chicken costs 3 euros per kilo [around CA$4.36/kg] in France. Mine costs 7 euros per kilo [around CA$10.16/kg], explains Michel Larrère, exasperated.

As a result , the volume of Ukrainian chicken exported to Europe has more than doubled, according to Eurostat.

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French farmers blocked Highway 64, in the Paris region, with their tractors on January 26, 2024.

It's dumping, unfair competition which is slowly killing us, chanted the angry farmers during the great mobilization which paralyzed the roads of France at the beginning of the month.

Among the long list of demands they presented to the government of France was the urgency of imposing quotas on Ukraine, a country where livestock of chickens, unlike France, is under the quasi-monopoly of a single company.

Yes, to help Ukraine, but no to unfair competition, declared French President Emmanuel Macron while he was in Brussels to try to defuse the agricultural crisis hitting Europe.

Who benefits three-quarters? To a group, owned by a billionaire. Objectively, we don't want to enrich this gentleman. That's not the goal. That doesn't help Ukraine.

A quote from Emmanuel Macron, President of France

This gentleman, as President Macron introduced him, is Yuriy Kosyuk, the chicken king in Ukraine. He is a businessman whose fortune places him among the richest people in Ukraine, as the founder and CEO of the country's largest agricultural company, MHP. p>

This multinational is listed on the London Stock Exchange, is registered in Cyprus and exports its meat and cereals to the four corners of the world.

It is Elsewhere in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, we reached its chief administrative officer, John Rich, who, from the outset, defended the integrity of the company.

Every penny that MHP earns in one way or another goes back to Ukraine to support its economy. We will pay more than 150 million euros [approximately $218 million CAD] in taxes this year.

A quote from John Rich, executive director of MHP

John Rich adds that he was shocked to hear the words of President Macron who, according to him, succumbed to the disinformation of farmers. He says he sympathizes with the latter, but he does not agree with them.

France, says Mr. Rich, is the country in Europe that imports the least chicken directly from Ukraine, which is true.

However, this does not prevent chicken imported from Ukraine via the Netherlands, for example, from landing on French plates in the form of croquettes or cordon bleus with the European Union stamp. (EU).

Under current rules, it is sufficient for a product, regardless of its origin, to be processed within the EU for it to receive the seal.

Today, Ukrainian chicken is in Europe as if it were a European chicken, and that's the misfortune, deplores Michel Larrère.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">It is his own misfortune, although Mr. Larrère is aware of the misfortune that is shaking the Ukrainian people. He talks about it every day with his best friend and colleague Anastasia, who joins the conversation.

Living in France for 20 years, this woman from from Dnipro, Ukraine, shelters members of his family who fled the bombings.

It hurts my heart what's happening. It's my country and, of course, I support it, says Anastasia, who is also a farmer and understands very well the anger of her colleagues, given the sacrifices asked of them to contribute to the war effort. .

But I know agriculture in Ukraine, and there aren't a ton of small producers like here. Chicken-wise, it’s a big business, says Anastasia, referring to MHP.

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French breeder Michel Larrère with Anastasia, a Ukrainian who has lived in France for 20 years and is hosting members of her family who fled the bombings.

The Ukrainian agricultural multinational did indeed see its turnover plummet during the first months of the war, but it has since recovered.

Even though its chicken sector today has stronger backs than before the war, confirms administrative director John Rich.

However, people tend to forget that the conflict continues and that our business is vital to Ukraine's economy, Rich adds.

However, Alain Gardeils, another poultry breeder whom we met in the Landes, no longer knows if his sacrifices are worth it. Whatever MHP says, Mr. Gardeils assures that he too suffers from Ukrainian exports, although he specializes in high-end chicken.

The question of solidarity with Ukraine, I in no way call into question. It's true that it doesn't cost Europe anything at the moment, but it costs us.

A quote from Alain Gardeils, poultry breeder

If 60% of its chickens are sold to butchers and intended for customers who can afford them, the rest of its production (40%) is intended to be sold in supermarkets. This is where the problem lies, says Alain Gardeils.

The large stores, the purchasing centers which have been waging war for years and years to know who is the cheapest, they are taking advantage of the situation caused by the arrival of Ukrainian chickens on the market. market to negotiate their purchase prices downward, explains Mr. Gardeils.

The breeder says he is losing 10 euro cents per chicken for two years.

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Alain Gardeils is a poultry farmer in Landes, in the southwest of France.

Although the Ukrainian sector is not the only cause of the torment of French chicken breeders and their colleagues in the rest of Europe, they are banking today on the promises of Emmanuel Macron and its European counterparts to regulate the arrival of chickens with quotas which have not yet been specified.

But when and how?

The task promises to be difficult, if not impossible, without undermining Ukrainian solidarity.

And that would not solve the problems of many French farmers, warns John Rich, of MHP Ukraine.

If we were to limit or prevent us from selling Ukrainian meat in the European Union, it would be Brazil and Thailand that would fill the void, he said. This is how the global market works, it’s that simple.

But not for Michel Larrère. He lists the nails sinking into the coffin of French poultry: inflation, avian flu, environmental standards and foreign competition.

It's the French chicken that will inevitably disappear, he says, including the farm left to him by his father and which he intends to pass on to his daughter. But in what condition?

There was a time when Mr. Larrère produced high quality products. However, he resigned himself to making entry-level chicken. We have no choice, it's survival, he summarizes.

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