Egg farmers have completed their first strike action to "raise the pressure" on supermarkets which are refusing to pay them more despite raising the price for shoppers.
After calling for a two-day halt to egg deliveries in Brittany, producers are threatening to strike even harder unless they get a 10% increase.
"It has been months since we raised the issue. If we are not paid a fair value there is a risk that we will stop breeding," Frédéric Chartier, a hen farmer, told the French media Libération.
France biggest producer in Europe
Mr Chartier farms in the Côtes-d'Armor department and is a member of the Fédération régionale des syndicats d'exploitants agricoles (FRSEA), the majority union that called the strike in Brittany, along with its offshoot, the Jeunes Agriculteurs (JA).
France is the premier egg producer in Europe at over 15 billion eggs each year.
For two days last week the 850 egg producers in the department, who account for more than 40% of production for consumption in France, were urged to stop their deliveries to packaging and industrial centres.
Since the health crisis and the war in Ukraine, their production costs have soared, making the 10% the producers are demanding from the supermarkets the “minimum” demanded to stay in business.
Burgeoning costs for producers
Listing increased costs of chicks, labour, materials and buildings, bank rates, insurance and especially the cost of gas and electricity over the last couple of years, the FRSEA and JA claim in a joint statement it is “vital to pass on production costs," to the “wealthy” supermarkets.
They blame manufacturers and retailers for not supporting local farmers. “The current situation is endangering French layer breeders, with bankruptcies and closures accelerating alarmingly," said Mr Chartier.
"Stopping deliveries will give both others in the industry as well as consumers a taste of things to come. Businesses will fold unless there is an urgent revaluation of our produce,” he added.
"Some companies are ready to quit," said Patrick Hamon, another layer breeder and head of the FDSEA egg association in Côtes-d'Armor.
"Everyone around us has increased its prices by 10 to 20%, why should we be silent? The price of energy also burdens farms.”
Producers ‘earning less’ than employees
The unions are therefore calling for a 10% increase in the price of eggs. "I earn less than my employees," says Mr Hamon. "Manufacturers are being forced to invest personal funds to stay afloat."
Brittany is the main egg-producing region in France. The Côtes-d'Armor alone represents 22% of the national production.
Pierre Godefroy, a producer near Rouen (Seine-Maritime), collects 5,700 eggs per day, and is paid a little over 18 cents per egg. "It would take at least two or even three extra cents to earn even a small income," he said.
A year ago Mr Godefroy invested €350,000 in his industrial plant. Now he faces a constant increase in expenses and is not paying himself a salary.