What is France's EGalim law and why does it matter to farmers?

Food prices in supermarkets and the environment are affected

Farmers demanded a strengthening of the EGalim law during the protests of January 2024
Published Last updated

The EGalim law was introduced in 2018 to help protect farmers and the environment from competition between France’s powerful supermarket chains.

‘EGalim’ is the law’s short name - its full name is the law to balance commercial relations between the farming and food sectors and for long term, healthy and accessible food, or loi pour l’équilibre des relations commerciales dans le secteur agricole et alimentaire et une alimentation saine, durable et accessible à tous.

It was introduced by President Macron in 2018 after a national review into food prices in 2017, which coincided with a protest on the Champs Elysées by the farmers unions FNSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs.

Unions at the time were concerned by proposed bans on glyphosate and the mass importation of genetically modified food from outside the EU. Pressure from farmers helped prevent both from happening.

How does the EGalim law work?

The 2018 EGalim law forces distributors to sell food at prices at least 10% higher than what they paid for it, which is meant to ensure producers are not forced to succumb to market pressure to sell their goods cheaply.

Each year, the prices of a range of goods are negotiated and indexed according to the availability of raw materials.

Essentially, this means that in years with a good harvest, food should be cheaper, while in years of penury farmers can still sell their food at a profit.

The law also banned supermarkets from offering discounts of over 34% on food items.

It was updated in 2021 and 2023 to ensure that production costs are taken into account when setting prices, and added the stipulation that the prices must be renegotiated if the costs of raw materials increase.

One consequence of the law is that food prices in France are around 15% higher than the European average.

The EGalim law also includes:

  • Bans on the use of titanium dioxide as a crop stimulant and neonicotinoid insecticides (which kill bees via pollen) in farming
  • Rules for animal welfare, including during transport
  • A ban on new battery chicken farms
  • A rule that 50% of food production must be either organic or of protected origin
  • Anti-waste rules, allowing people to take non-eaten food home with them from restaurants
  • Rules to decrease the use of plastic

‘Supermarkets can buy from Spain’

However, the EGalim is not an EU law, and as such it only applies to France. This presents supermarkets with an easy way to sidestep the limits imposed on them by EGalim.

“The large chains can base their producers in Spain, Portugal or Italy,” senator Anne-Catherine Loisier told Public Sénat.

“These countries impose purchase contracts based on their own legislation, which frees companies from the price fixing mechanisms put in place by EGalim”.

During the January 2024 protest, in which farmers blocked motorways around France, one of the demands of the unions was “for the absolute application of the EGalim law”.

It is telling that farmers chose to broach the perceived imbalances of the EGalim law in the court of public opinion rather than in the courts or in private negotiations with distributors.

“Producers do not want to take the risk of being sidelined by supermarkets,” said senator Loisier.

However, in response to the protest, the government has proposed a tightening of the law to tip the scales more in favour of farmers.

One way that this may happen is by removing producers’ obligation to continue their supply contracts with distributors each year. This would allow producers to wait for the price negotiations before agreeing to supply supermarkets.

The government has also announced a wave of supermarket inspections to check that the ‘Made in France’ label is strictly adhered to.

Read more:

Why are essential items so expensive in France?