What is the mission with which the Ministry entrusted you in May by appointing you Federator of the “Bien Manger” (Eating Well) family?
I knew the Minister Nicole Bricq well before she called me to offer me this mission. It’s a volunteer position. The idea is to defend the idea of “better feeding ourselves”. I don’t need to look after big businesses, they don’t need me. On the other hand, I’m here to facilitate export for small businesses, providing a sort of link with the Ministry, to simplify their procedures for obtaining approval, especially in the context of hygiene issues.
How do you go about this?
I raise awareness on the updated government platform Exp@don2. You know, we’re losing market shares in the food industry. If it weren’t for wine, the sector would be making a loss. We have to rally together. I’ve already been to Algeria, with Ubifrance, one of our export-facilitating partners, and also Tunisia withStéphane Le Foll (editorial note: French Minister of Agriculture) to attend a trade fair. I speak a simple language that everyone can understand.
Have you set an example with your own company?
Yes. I’ve been exporting my cheese to Japan for ten years. It’s complicated, especially for hygiene issues, hence the setting up of this Exp@don 2 platform. It’s not easy, it’s necessary to overhaul a whole mentality, a country’s habits. Every day I’d receive faxes… The blue mould on Roquefort cheese was problematic.
You say that export in the food industry can be improved. Do French businesses have the required standard?
In the machine industry, we have a few crackers. Kuhn, for example, manufactures ploughs, exceptional tools; Manitou, based in the Loire-Atlantique, distributes all-terrain forklift trucks… France is also represented by Mecatherm, the leader.
in bread-making machines, Lactalis, the leader in cheese. We have excellent enterprises, we just need to help them to get over international obstacles.
What are the government’s strategies?
The Ministry recently created the Club des Exportateurs (Club of Exporters). One personality is designated as a leader in each country to represent the food industry. In Poland, it’s the Head of Bonduelle. We need to federate requests, to gather requesters together to become stronger. We really need to silence our animosity and our jealousy, not be individualistic. The Germans already do this
very well, they arrive en masse, with political support. The Minister Nicole Bricq is working with large distribution chains such as Carrefour, well established in China moreover, to promote French products overseas.
Which files have you managed to help progress?
I bring small dossiers to the attention of the ministries. I-Tek, a company from Brittany, specialised in the pork meat stream, needed support to set up their third business in China. This December, Minister Bricq will be going to Algeria to launch
the company Mecatherm.
I am also keen to stir up the infrastructures at Roissy (editorial note: major airport in Paris) to help improve export. It’s hard to believe that there are still no storage rooms there while Rungis (editorial note: wholesale food market serving the Paris region) is one of the biggest markets …
What would further boost France’s overseas sales?
We insist on the Appelation d’Origine Protégée (AOP or Protected Designation of Origin), a quality label that should gain exposure outside of our borders. Care also needs to be paid to wrapping and packaging. The British, to whom we are losing market shares, find us old-fashioned. We should follow the example of the Italians who pull out all stops on ham packaging. In France, we need to preserve our upmarket way of eating while paying attention to nutrition.