• French farmers roasted by Ukrainian chicken imports

    France’s traditional Sunday roast: cheaper from Ukraine. Photo: Monstera production

    In France, a Sunday lunch of a roast chicken is a time-honoured tradition. The dish, the French people’s favourite, is available to just about everyone. You can find organic free-range chickens for 20 euros, as well as poultry for less than ten euros, often sold in halal butchers’ shops, where broke students can only afford a bag of potatoes. It is also a symbol of French agriculture, which continues to raise alongside battery chickens.

    But since 2022, the French chicken market has been in crisis. The lifting of restrictions on the entry of Ukrainian poultry into the European Union’s market has left the industry facing unexpected competition. In the first half of 2022, Ukrainian chicken imports into France rose sharply by 120 percent, and have since grown at a more moderate rate. With the Russian blockade of the Black Sea, Ukraine can “no longer export to the Middle East [by ship], which was one of its main customers,” explains Yann Nédélec, director of the poultry producers’ association.“It has switched to Europe, via lorry.” 

    French poultry farmers see the massive arrival of chickens up to four times cheaper than their own as unfair competition. 

    Ukraine does not have to comply with the same quality standards as countries of the European Union, and has huge farms with over a million head of poultry, whereas the largest French farms number only a few tens of thousands. In addition, massive exports to the EU mainly benefit one man, the oligarch Yuriy Kosiuk, who controls 80 percent of the Ukrainian poultry market via his company MHP. This mega-business is based in Cyprus and listed on the London Stock Exchange. 

    In June, the industry asked the Minister for Agriculture to “activate the European safeguard clause to halt the asphyxiation of the sector” and suspend imports.

    Unexpectedly, this request met with little response from the political class, even on the far right.

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