Brittany. Is the rabbit sector heading for a historic crisis?

07/27/2017 – 07:15 Rennes ( – Will rabbit farms completely disappear in Brittany? Between the decline in consumption and the cell ban, the sector is going through an unprecedented crisis.

Historical Brittany and the northwestern part of France (Maine, Anjou, Poitou) account for 60% of France’s rabbit production. In 2005, there were 3,500 farms in the country, compared to 2,000 in 2008 and 1,200 in 2016. Since then, production and the number of farms have declined. However, trapped between declining consumption, low prices and the impending cage ban, the sector has plunged into a deep crisis that continues to deepen.

In administrative Brittany ten years ago there were another 300 farms; there were only 130 in 2016 and 120 in 2017. In parallel, from 2015 to 2016, the staff of the Breton Rabbit Breeders Association (AELB) was reduced from 44 to 39 breeders. There are only 350 breeders in the Pays de Loire compared to 400 ten years ago. Consequence: slaughterhouses also struggle. The Multilap slaughterhouse in Saint-Crespin-sur-Moine, Moge closed in 2015, resulting in 29 job losses; a sign of the times, the facilities have been bought by a halal industrialist and are due to be put back into service. Others were closed in the west, especially south of Deux Sèvres in Chef Boutonne in 2013; it was bred by Breton breeders.

Prices no longer generate income for breeders: an average of 1.77 euros per kilogram in 2015, 1.82 euros in 2016, 1.70 euros per kilogram in 2017, breeders no longer manage, as they explained when they were going to label their products on Intermarche des Longchamps. in Rennes-Chantepy last April. Their unions are demanding a 20-cent increase for a supermarket farmer so that farmers can earn an income and make ends meet. Most breeders work 80-hour weeks to pay far less than the minimum wage or not at all. Settlements of young people in the sector have practically ceased.

The rabbit sector is indeed very expensive: for the so-called rational » On a turnkey basis with 700 females producing 40,000 fattened rabbits per year, a contribution of 400,000 euros is required. According to the industry, the depreciation of these installations after twelve years requires a cost of 2.03 euros per kilogram; we are far from it. In addition, rabbit feed is expensive: the cost of alfalfa and beet pulp, which alone account for 44% of production costs, is constantly rising, and health costs associated with diseases, vaccinations, etc. also weigh on farms, almost all of which are industrial. Association L214 denounces the mortality rate of young rabbits before slaughter at 80% and 29% among females. In addition, after the reorganization of processing companies in China in 2014, the recovery of rabbit skins, which accounted for about 15% of farmers’ income, ceased.

All of these disasters weigh down investment opportunities. In autumn 2016, the National Federation of Rabbit Meat Producer Groups (Fenalap) recalled in a press release that the situation had become “ catastrophic after a crisis that has been going on for ten years. ” Treasuries are empty, the price paid to the breeder does not cover his expenses, they point out. Non-payments are increasing, breeders are forced to stop their activities. In order to prevent the disappearance of rabbit production, it becomes vital that producers are rewarded at a price that allows them to pay their expenses and live their profession with dignity. “, – confirmed FENALAP.

How often the crisis is not limited to the question of price. The consumption of rabbits also dropped sharply; it continued to decline, settling at 1.2 kg per person per year. In 2015, it decreased by 10%, and continued in 2016 and in the first half of 2017. If in 1979 the French ate 5 kg of rabbit per year, and in 1995 another 1.50 kg, today they ate no more than 800 g. At the same time, French production fell from 200,000 slaughter equivalent tonnes in 1979 to 80,000 tonnes in 2004 and 57,400 tonnes in spring 2017; part of the consumption is fresh imports from Spain and Italy, which have managed to maintain their industrial rabbit industries, and frozen products from China.

There is still a production problem: whole rabbit, which was already a niche market, is hardly consumed, while products more adapted to the evolution of consumption patterns (cuts, fillets, halal, individual portions, nuggets, sausages) are struggling. appear both within the sector and on supermarket shelves. Unlike other meats such as beef, chicken, or even pork (the French label for pork), there is little or no communication campaigns about rabbit meat, despite being low in fat and high in omega-3s.

The only positive note: the market for the production of breeding rabbits is doing well, thanks to exports. The two major players, Eurolap based in Ghosnes (35) and Hypharm based in Mauges in Roussay, export nearly half of their production to Italy and Spain…direct competitors to French rabbit farming. The two companies decided to merge in 2017 to influence a market that is very competitive despite the very difficult situation in France.

The end of cells, a fatal paradigm shift for most farms

More worrisome for the sector is the upcoming ban on rabbit cages, which is before the European Parliament following a report on an initiative last March in the name of animal welfare. Almost 99% of French rabbit breeding is produced in rabbit cages, and breeders hardly understand how and by what means they can change the production system when they can no longer do so.

They fear that over a quarter of farms will be wiped off the face of the earth in the coming years, and with them jobs (processing, food production, slaughter). The red label – penned on a wire mesh floor and 15 days on straw before slaughter, fattening at 90 days instead of 74 – represents only 1% of production, organic is marginal – and is confused with rabbits that people raise at home. .

Several European distributors have already banned raising rabbits in cages: Manor in Switzerland (which bought Italian industrial rabbits), Tengelmann and Kaiser’s in Germany, Schiever (Atac, Maximarché) in France. Two countries where rabbit production is, however, very low have banned cages in favor of parks; These are Austria and Belgium. In France, the transition to cages will cause “ 30% surcharge to the breeder and therefore just as much, if not more, for the consumer, not to mention an investment that the vast majority of French breeders are unable to make. A catastrophe, devoid of funds and support to renew and innovate, the French rabbit industry fears a leap into the unknown that could prove fatal.

Register of Louis-Benoit

Photo Credit: DR
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