Grants of up to €80,000 are being given to people opening new shops in rural areas from a budget of €12million in 2023.
Statistics agency Insee found that 21,000 communes, some 62% of the total number in France, have no shops.
In 1980, only 25% were without shops.
Junior finance minister in charge of commerce Olivia Grégoire said the immediate government objective was to see 1,000 shops open in communes where none now exist.
“We will do this with a simple, efficient and proven method, by being as close as possible to identified needs on the ground,” she promised.
Eligible shops should be either situated in villages or itinerant, like the mobile grocery stores, butchers and fishmongers that used to be a feature of rural life.
Food shops will receive priority.
Rural affairs are covered by a different ministry and its junior minister, Dominique Faure, said: “This €12million fund will allow local governments and their partners to rapidly develop multi-service shops.”
The grant received a mixed welcome from the president of the Association of Rural Mayors of France, Michel Fournier, who is a rural shopkeeper.
“It’s good that the government is concerning itself with services to rural areas,” he said.
“But what concerns me is that it does not give any help to existing shops, and many are in difficulty.”
There have been a number of initiatives in rural areas to encourage shops to open.
However, the former Conseil Général de la Charente estimated that three-quarters of the shops it has helped to open failed in the first year.
The main reasons given were high taxes to pay for Chambre de Commerce registration, Urssaf contributions and health insurance costs.