EVERY TWO days a farmer in France commits suicide for a variety of different reasons but among the most common ones is escalating farm debt.

This startling statistic has prompted the French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume to set up a crisis unit to help farmers in times of despair.

With farm incomes squeezed tight and drought conditions hammering crop yields farmers, particularly those aged 45 to 54, are taking their own lives.

Minister Guillaume said: “It’s a real tragedy. One farmer takes his own life every two days in France. We have set up a crisis unit to help farmers and I must stress help is available out there. There is no doubt falling farm incomes are at the heart of this crisis and we must address that,” he said.

With that in mind Minister Guillaume is calling for a stronger CAP that supports farmers for all the hard work they do in producing food.

“There is too much agri-bashing going on at the moment,” he said. “We must support our farmers and try to stop all this criticism of them. We have to restore the strong family farms and to do this we need a stronger CAP.

“There are 450,000 jobs associated with farming in France and we need to encourage over 10,000 new farmers into the industry each year,” he said.

The Minister discussed trade deals and Brexit and insisted France would have a strong voice at future EU meetings to ensure French farming has a solid future. He said: “With regards to the CAP budget, it is not acceptable that the CAP budget decrease jeopardizes farmers' income and hinders the agro-ecological transition of European agriculture at a time when environmental challenges are increasing.

“I will make sure France has a strong voice at future CAP budget talks. Also, in discussing trade deals such as Mercosur and trade deals with the US, I will ensure French farmers will have the best deal we can. Our small producers are going to be the most affected by the trade deal with the US and that’s something we have to address as well.

“The UK is the first country that has ever decided to leave the European Union and that is their democratic right," he added. “Here in France we are prepared for the Brexit however it should happen with a deal or no deal. We have 360 food safety inspectors ready to carry out checks at the ports, ferries and tunnel. Whatever happens, the EU and the UK should remain friends,” he stressed.

Other items the Minister discussed included his wish to ban the use of beef and milk as loss leaders by the retailers. He also said he wanted to connect famers and consumers more with greater traceability and more transparent labelling to include country of origin.

“Pesticides should also be completely banned,” added Minister Guillaume. “The right way to farm is to ban them but not overnight. There should be a transition period,” he added.