2 February 2024

A rapeseed field, near Bellême (Orne), July 8, 2022.

Eric Thirouin, president of the General Association of Wheat Producers (AGPB), recognizes this straight away: “2022 will go down as an exceptional year. » Difficult to prove the cereal producer from Eure-et-Loir wrong, in view of the figures published, in December 2022, by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee). According to his estimates, French agricultural production should approach the symbolic bar of 100 billion euros, at 95.8 billion euros, signifying a spectacular jump of 17.4%.

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The surge in the prices of raw materials, from wheat to barley, via rapeseed, sugar and corn, not to mention butter or milk powder, has caused a windfall effect for French agriculture in 2022. The backlash on the prices of cereals and oilseeds had already begun in 2021. The exit from the crisis linked to Covid-19 and the purchases of China, anxious to strengthen its stocks of food products, had generated strong supply tensions. The invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops just a year ago further increased speculative pressure on agricultural commodities.

Prices peaked in May 2022. At its all-time high, a ton of milling wheat was trading at 438 euros on Euronext. A price level raising fears of endangering the populations of the poorest countries and highly dependent on imports.

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The grain agreement concluded at the end of July 2022 between Moscow and Kiev, under the aegis of Turkey and the United Nations, to ensure grain exports from Ukrainian ports, reduced the pressure. It was renewed, in mid-November 2022, for one hundred and twenty days. Thanks to this agreement, the flow of Ukrainian exports has returned to its usual level of 5 million tonnes, all grains combined. Prices therefore fell at the end of the summer, especially as the global harvest was favourable.

The cattle farmer at the bottom of the table

In this context, French cereal prices would have benefited from an average increase of 33% in 2022, according to INSEE. And even if the drought and the high temperatures caused concerns, finally the production of cereals fell by 10% compared to 2021. Another favorable factor: the rapeseed harvest was plentiful.

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Cereal growers should therefore be the big winners in 2022. Especially since the rise in the price of fertilizers or energy has only partially affected the harvest of wheat, the purchases of inputs being anticipated. This good fortune comes after an already very favorable 2021 vintage. According to the latest data published by the Ministry of Agriculture, the current result before tax, in other words the agricultural income of a cereal farmer, was 57,000 euros in 2021. When that of the cattle breeder stagnated at the bottom of the table , at 20,400 euros.

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