What are the main changes in French agriculture since 1945 and what challenges does it face today?

Essay by xxaavviieerrUniversity, Bachelor'sB, April 2006

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In the days following the World War II, France was a devastated and ruined country: 600,000 people had been killed, 10000 bridges and 1 building out of 22 had been destroyed, and losses were estimated at a fourth of the 1938 domestic wealth (Dallenne 2004, 196). As for agriculture, despite several serious damages, it was still a vital part of the French economy. At the time, the majority of the farms were small family holdings equipped with relatively archaic technical means. Over one third of the working population was employed in this sector and a farmer fed 7 persons on average. I will study firstly the main changes that agriculture has undergone since 1945 with respect notably to the farming techniques and their results, to the evolution of holdings, and finally to French regions. Secondly I will deal with the internal agricultural challenges that France is currently facing, then with those linked to international competition and lastly with some solutions that could help the sector to remain dynamic.

First and foremost, deep transformations following the Second World War occurred in the French agriculture. A real 'agricultural revolution' (Pitte 2001, 121-123) converted an activity using archaic methods into a productive and high-standard one. There was indeed a sharp increase in the amount of chemicals employed such as weed killers, fertilisers, pesticides or high-protein feeds, and in the number of tractors used -from 20,000 in 1946 to more than 1.2M in 1997. In addition to that, high-yield varieties as well as new managing and productive methods imported from the USA improved outstandingly the efficiency of the branch. For instance the 1955-2000 wheat and corn yields respectively quintupled and sextupled while the quantity of milk per cow tripled. Forgetting the post-war rationing and shortages, France became the 'foremost agricultural nation in the...