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Strawberry offer prompts outrage

79-cent promotion at supermarket chain Auchan has French producers up in arms

FRENCH supermarket Auchan’s latest offer on Spanish strawberries has French growers up in arms.

The popular chain has been selling 500g punnets of Spanish fruit for 79 cents, a price that has prompted the Professional Association of French Vegetable Producers to warn its members may consider direct action if similar loss-leading promotions are repeated.

Jacques Rouchaussé, the association’s president, called the offer “a silly policy” and said: “We call on Auchan immediately to stop such ‘slaughter-price’ sales or we will be forced to take action, such as raids on shops, to tell them to stop the nonsense.”

In 2011, French producers blocked Spanish lorries at the border and destroyed a cargo of fruit and vegetables in protest at what they regarded as unfair competition.

The incident prompted Spanish agriculture minister Rosa Aguilar to call on French authorities to make sure such incidents never occur again.

Xavier Masse, president of France’s Association of national Strawberry Producers, said that low prices, such as the Auchan’s “distort the market”.

Other stores will follow Auchan’s lead, he said, with will threaten the future of the French strawberry industry as consumers will expect similarly low prices on homegrown fruit - despite higher production costs.

More than half the strawberries sold in France are of Spanish origin, where labour costs are lower and yields are higher. “Spanish plants produce twice as many strawberries as French ones, but the taste is not the same,” Mr Masse said.

Photo: Fried Dough

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