An irresistible pheromone causing swarms of locusts, study finds

The Covid-19 is not the only calamity to have been talked about this year: swarms of migratory locusts have ravaged crops in several regions of the world, a phenomenon linked to an irresistible pheromone, according to a study published Wednesday.

Taken individually, this locust is rather harmless, but it can transform, change color, and join its congeners in clouds of millions of individuals.

According to a study published Wednesday in Nature, the secret of this metamorphosis is linked to a pheromone: almost like an irresistible perfume, the chemical substance is emitted by the locust as soon as it is near a handful of its fellows.

Snowball effect, the pheromone then attracts other individuals who join the group and also begin to emit this substance, 4-vinylanisole or 4VA.

The discovery, which comes as record swarms of locusts have devastated crops in East Africa and threaten the food supply in Pakistan, allows some applications to be considered.

Like creating genetically modified locusts that would deprive the pheromone detector, or setting up traps to attract insects.

The researchers experimented with the latter hypothesis, setting up pheromone traps in controlled environments and in fields, which effectively attracted locusts.

It’s “relatively efficient,” although “optimization and fine-tuning is needed to move from experimentation to practical application,” commented one of the authors, Le Kang, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Genetic modification of these locusts could also allow “sustainable and green control” of these clouds, noted the scientist. But that would require long-term efforts, and “a strict biosafety assessment before application,” he added.

For Leslie Vosshall, a researcher at Rockefeller University, who was not involved in the study, the most exciting prospect would be to find a chemical that would block the reception of 4VA.

“The discovery of such a molecule would provide a chemical antidote to the aggregation of insects, and would return the locusts to their peaceful and solitary life”, she commented, pointing out however many unknowns, in particular knowing if this pheromone is the only one responsible for the herd behavior of locusts.


In Brazil, agroecology between hope and suffocation

At Barra Funda, a popular district in the centre of Sao Paulo, the Armazem do Campo, one of the six shops of the city who resells the products from the Movement of the landless (MST) at cost price, can only accommodate four customers at once. Precautionary measure against the sars coronavirus requires.

→ CHANGE THE WORLD. How to better feed the world ?

“But the deliveries have attracted 30 % of customers more “, accurate Ademar Ludwig, coordinator of the network. This new dynamic is to take the production of small farmers has quickly found its audience, during the crisis, with the middle class, already accustomed to consuming these products.

Small producers are indispensable

Orders of eggs, for example, have increased by 100 % in recent weeks, to reach 2,400 units in April. “People buy from us because the profits go directly to producers and not to the high street “commended Ademar, who explains that the crisis reinforces the idea that you should buy close to home what is produced close to home. “But there is still much to do to the inhabitants of the peripheries have also access to a power supply without the use of pesticides “, says the activist.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the sales of 7 000 farmers of the green belt of São Paulo State have plummeted by 80 %. However, according to the brazilian Institute of geography and statistics (IBGE), these family structures produce half of the coffee and bananas consumed in the country, 80 % of cassava, 69 % of pineapple, and 42 % of the dry beans, food key in the plate of the Brazilians.

In the Face of this new situation, small-scale farmers were willing to recycle their production for fertilizer. A mess partly avoided thanks to the Foundation Banco do Brasil, which has decided to invest 1 million reais (178 000 €) to distribute 100 tons of food to 5,000 vulnerable families of Mogi das Cruzes, a city 40 km away from Sao Paolo.

But the absence of public policies weighs heavily on the small producers. The ” program of acquisition of food from family agriculture “, established in 2003 under the first government of president Lula in the context of the policy of ” zero Hunger “, saw its resources decline steadily since 2013.

Agroecology against agribusiness

Result : according to the IBGE, family agriculture, which accounts for 23 % of the arable land, is melting like snow in the sun as it extends the powerful agronégoce. “In Brazil, 100 % of the agribusiness is subsidized, so that there is no credit for the family farmers. It is David against Goliath “, grieves Ademar Ludwig.

→ TO READ. Coronavirus : the populations of the Amazon are particularly vulnerable

The crisis of the sars coronavirus has also dug a little deeper inequalities already evident. Between march and April, 1.1 million jobs in the formal sector have been removed and more than 8 million people have suffered salary reductions. “In this context, malnutrition increases for the poorest, with more and more industrial foods, and with it obesity, particularly in children “, describes Paulo Petersen, executive coordinator of AS-PTA, an association which supports the transition agro-ecological small-scale farmers.

With 600 reais (100 €) emergency assistance monthly granted to the most fragile, it’s impossible for these families to choose a healthy food, ” says activist : “This aid only allows you to buy from large supermarket chains, fed by the agronégoce, even if the organic products are not necessarily more expensive. “


the return to the fields of European workers

French farmers should be able to find part of their seasonal foreign labor. The government’s announcement Thursday (May 7) to open borders to seasonal workers from the European Union, even outside of Schengen, is a relief for the profession. A total of around 276,000 seasonal workers are needed for the May and June harvests, according to the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA).

→ LIVE. Coronavirus: France enters its third day of progressive deconfinement

“Many farmers have relied on foreign labor for thirty-forty years, explains André Bernard, vice-president of chambers of agriculture. In Paca, 28% are North Africans, mainly from Tunisia and Morocco, 27% are Europeans, mainly Spanish. “

15,000 contracts signed for 290,000 applicants

The coronavirus crisis and the closing of borders in Europe had prevented foreign seasonal workers from coming to France, threatening the harvest of strawberries, cherries, apricots, peaches and grapes. In collaboration with the Ministries of Agriculture and Labor, Pôle Emploi and the National Association for Employment and Training of Farmers (Anefa), the FNSEA notably launched the “Arms for your plate” platform last March .

The goal: to connect farmers and “volunteers” to make up for the shortage of labor. If 290,000 people answered the call according to the platform, 15,000 contracts were finally signed on the 45,000 needed in March, announced Christiane Lambert, president of the main agricultural union on Franceinfo.

“You can’t improvise as a farmer”

“Only 30% of those who came stayed,” says André Bernard, vice-president of chambers of agriculture. A figure he explains by the lack of experience of the local workforce, coupled with a lack of training at the start of their new contract. “Seasonal workers from abroad come from agricultural backgrounds”, he continues.

Same observation for Dominique Chargé, president of the Agricultural Cooperation, which brings together some 2,600 agricultural cooperatives. “The“ arms for your plate ”approach was very interesting and we must honor the French volunteer workers. But you can’t improvise as a farmer, it’s a painful job. It is important for us to find this specialized and experienced workforce that we usually use. She is available and ready. ”

Strict sanitary measures

The arrival of foreign workers must, however, be governed by a health protocol. “We call on all employers to act responsibly”, warns Jérôme Volle, vice-president of the FNSEA. We are currently discussing with the Ministry of Health on the modalities of physical distance, protective equipment, barrier gestures or the adaptation of housing. ”

→ READ. Numerous volunteers for the “army of agriculture”

Among the constraints feared by the profession, a compulsory quarantine was notably mentioned during the discussions. Fourteen-day confinement could be applied to European nationals who are currently outside the Schengen area. A measure judged “Extremely penalizing” by the president of the FNSEA. “We need these workers very quickly, adds André Bernard, it’s a matter of days. ”

And to continue: “In addition, it will be necessary to monitor the workers’ state of health: carry out regular temperature checks and measurements, as well as organize treatment by the village doctor or by nearby hospitals if there is suspected cases of Covid-19. For proven cases, some farmers have already planned to leave a shelter available for the sick so that they can isolate themselves. “

A warning for the profession

Daniel Sauvaître, arboriculturalist and secretary general of the interprofession of fresh fruit and vegetables (Interfel), is concerned about these additional instructions: “The Covid-19 crisis has redistributed the cards. For example, there will be less housing available this year, the campsites being closed. ” The coronavirus crisis and the lack of manpower should therefore serve as a warning to farmers, he said. “For the next few years, we will have to think of a way to attract and favor locals. “

To do this, André Bernard plans in particular “Long-term training for unemployed local workers. We have to mitigate these migratory flows and imagine a system so that the wealth that we create benefits French workers more. “ Finally, Dominique Chargé suggests valuing agricultural professions through remuneration: “The crisis questions our ability to have our own workforce for our food sovereignty. Achieving food self-sufficiency means giving back importance to manual labor in France. “


The coronavirus pushes Europe to review its agricultural model

Anticipation of certain payments provided for by the common agricultural policy (CAP), flexibility of competition rules and storage aid: since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the European Commission has multiplied initiatives to try to help the agricultural sector. But the 27 EU agriculture ministers, who will meet on Wednesday May 13, should ask the EU executive to go further, in particular by supporting the wine, fruit and vegetable and poultry sector.

→ LIVE. Coronavirus: France enters its third day of progressive deconfinement

Despite an increase in demand for certain products during containment, all agricultural sectors were turned upside down by the crisis. The closure of restaurants and canteens rhymes with loss of outlets, in particular for dairy products and meat, hence the private storage aids (milk powder, cheese, etc.) in place since May in order to avoid a fall in prices due to massive surpluses weighing on the markets.

The Commission has also given the green light to the “crisis cartels”, notably for flowers and potatoes, allowing producers to agree to stabilize the market for up to six months. “So far, there has been no additional money spent on agricultural aid”, translates a European source who expects some ministers to demand it.

“Green corridors” all over Europe

The closing of borders slows down the movement of goods. To limit the damage, the Commission has opened “green corridors” all over Europe to allow trucks of goods to quickly pass checkpoints, recalling, just like the Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume, the character “Strategic” of the agricultural sector to guarantee healthy food to Europeans without interruption.

→ READ. Coronavirus, the European Commission tackles the thorny issue of borders

For the NGO Greenpeace, the observation is clear: “This health crisis shows the vulnerability of our agricultural production, which is neither sufficiently autonomous nor sufficiently localized. “

A “not so ridiculous” model

Jérémy Decerle, MEP from the Renew Europe group, has had enough of the criticisms of the agricultural model of the Old Continent: “Perhaps if there had been a different CAP, there would be nothing more to eat today! “, the former president of the Young Farmers elected to the European Parliament a year ago. He underlines “There have been no shortages, which means that the model is not that ridiculous.”

As early as mid-April, he had sent a letter to the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, urging her not to forget “Agriculture and the food industry on the pretext that this sector continues to turn more than others”. He admits, however: “We will have to take advantage of the crisis to make the sector even more resilient. “

Transitional measures

The new face of the CAP, post-2020, is the subject of negotiations, but the amount of its future envelope is not yet known: pandemic requires, the European executive is drafting a new budget for 2021-2027. Previous versions already planned cuts that amounted to billions for the CAP.

In the meantime, the co-legislators are working on so-called “transitional” measures, to ensure that the subsidies are paid in 2021, or even in 2022, until the “new CAP” is agreed. .

From farm to fork strategy

The “From Farm to Fork” strategy, which the Commission will unveil on May 20, could give a taste. Among other things, it aims to align the agricultural sector with the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050. Provisions will also affect animal welfare, labeling and the use of pesticides.

“It is logical to think of the environment and animal welfare as a priority, but we have to be sure that the sectors to which we are going to ask to comply with new obligations are not weakened. Even before the coronavirus, the situation on farms was not really rosy “, sighs Jérémy Decerle, who wonders: “Didn’t the Commission have better things to do? “


Regularisations, text closed except duration allowed – Policy

Is there the duration of temporary residence permits that still ‘dances’ in the text on the regularization developed after a long confrontation between the ministers Teresa Bellanova, Luciana Lamorgese, Nunzia Catalfo and Giuseppe Provenzano: 3 or 2 months? It will be defined shortly with Catalfo continuing to ask for the shorter period. Otherwise the agreement has been reached on the article that points to the emergence of laborers, domestic workers and black carers, also to – it is emphasized – guarantee adequate levels of health protection in the Coronavirus emergency. If, as it seems, it will go through, it will be the fourth amnesty after those of 2002, 2009 and 2012.

Two regularization channels are proposed. The first is activated by the employer who – through a contract – brings out an irregular who must however already be on the national territory and must have been reported by the police forces in Italy before 8 March. After a series of checks, the foreigner will be granted a residence permit valid for the duration of the contract, renewable in the event of new employment relationships.

The second channel is the most controversial. It is that of the many seasonal workers in agriculture who have lost their jobs in this phase of crisis or whose contract has expired: these people will have a temporary job search permit. Minister Bellanova asked for a six-month term, supported by Provenzano; colleague Catalfo was strongly opposed. This led to the mediation – pushed by Lamorgese – of three months. The minister M5s insists however for 2. The feeling is that in the end the text will pass. “It is not a question of flags – explains Provenzano – but of civilization and everything must be done to bring the provision into the May decree, arriving at a summary”.

The recipients of expulsion orders, the condemned and the persons considered “dangerous for the security of the State” are excluded from the regularization. The standard, to which the legislative offices of the four ministries involved have committed themselves to technical definition, is complex due to the series of obligations it sets in motion for administrations.

And the Interior Ministry – once the measure is approved – needs a reasonable period of time to activate the IT platform necessary to manage requests, as has been done in the past.

As for the numbers that the regularization will produce, there are no certainties: it varies from 2-300 thousand up to 600 thousand. In agriculture, the trade associations report a shortage of 200 thousand people for the collection. And of the approximately 300 thousand foreigners employed in the Italian countryside, the Placido Rizzotto Observatory estimates that 35% are illegal. While in the informal camps, the so-called ‘ghettos’ scattered in various territories, live between 160 thousand and 180 thousand people. Without any health protection. For domestic work, Assindatcolf has 860 thousand people in good standing and 1.2 million without contracts. The category is heavily discounting the Coronavirus emergency: in April hiring fell by 50% and layoffs increased by 30% compared to the previous year.


Behind the scenes of Brussels – Containment: the debate prohibited

It only took a few moments, on March 16, for the Head of State and his government, in the name of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, to place the French under house arrest and deprive them of most of their freedoms civil, political and social that we thought inalienable: freedom to come and go, freedom of assembly, freedom to undertake, freedom to work, etc. Justice has almost been brought to a halt, lawyers confined, provisional detentions automatically extended, the police (understood in a very extensive sense since they include municipal police officers and the like) invested with full powers apply these custodial measures.

Containment without legal basis

This suspension of the rule of law was done without legal basis. Indeed, the decree of March 16 restricting the movement of citizens does not fall within the powers of the executive, since only a judicial judge, the liberty judge, can normally decide on an individual basis. Nevertheless, administrative justice, in this case the Council of State, validated it on the basis of the jurisprudential theory of “exceptional circumstances”, which is probably not its most inspired decision.

It was only on March 23 that Parliament gave a legal basis to the measures announced on March 17 by hastily passing the law creating a “state of health emergency” which authorizes the government to trigger it “in the event of a disaster. health endangering, by its nature and gravity, the health of the population ”, a particularly vague definition. This whole law cultivates vagueness, the offenses it provides for example leaving a large part to police interpretation and therefore to arbitrariness. Renewable by Parliament – possibly for a period longer than two months – it gives full powers to the executive, Parliament being stripped of its powers and reduced to the role of mere spectator. If the Assembly has not changed the government’s plan, the majority being what it is, the Senate, dominated by the classic right, has fortunately managed to introduce some safeguards in this improvised text and poorly put together in providing in particular that it will cease to apply in any event on 1er April 2021, unless a law to the contrary is passed. A fundamental clarification which the government services had curiously not thought of.

Not quite a dictatorship

It is remarkable that this exceptional legislation, justified by the use of a warlike language unique in Europe (“We are at war”) was not the subject of a referral to the Constitutional Council, the opposition, all as forbidden from terror as public opinion, having given up exercising its rights, an unprecedented fact, when it is a particularly serious attack on the rule of law. The constitutional judges were only seized on one point of detail, the suspension of the time limits to judge the questions preliminary of constitutionality (QPC), a provision which it moreover validated.

As long as the state of health emergency applies (until the end of July we have just learned), France is no longer a democracy, even if it is not quite a dictatorship. In his time, François Mitterrand denounced the “permanent coup” that were the institutions of the Fifth Republic. The coronavirus has made it possible to carry out this institutional logic. The head of state, relying on a submissive majority and facing non-existent opposition, seized all the levers of power by invoking the need to preserve the health of the French and a health emergency that he does did not want to see it coming, he who ten days earlier encouraged the French to continue living as before.

This parenthesis of the rule of law was accompanied by the brutal halt of a large part of the economy, a logical consequence of confinement. Above all, the government decided, without any consultation, which businesses could remain open, forcing companies to lay off more than 11 million private sector workers.

Lack of debate

It is truly staggering that these exceptional powers entrusted to the State to apply a brutal and without nuance confinement to an entire country, one of the hardest in Europe with those of Spain, Italy and Belgium , did not give rise to any debate, as if there was no other choice. However, never a democracy used in the past this method to fight against a pandemic (there was only partial confinements at the beginning of the previous century), in particular during the Spanish flu of 1918-1919, of the Asian flu of 1959 or of the Hong Kong flu of 1969. The fact that containment was a solution invented by China, a totalitarian regime, to contain the coronavirus pandemic should at least have questioned its legitimacy. However, it imposed itself almost naturally, all playing in reality when Italy took the decision to confine the whole of its population from March 10, which caused a domino effect, each wanting to show that he was also keen to protect its population: Spain imposed it on March 15, France on March 16, Belgium on March 18 …

However, there was room for debate and on all fronts. On the principle of containment itself first. Because it is only a stopgap aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and avoiding congestion in hospitals which could result in additional deaths. Clearly, the virus will continue to circulate and kill those it must kill after the containment is lifted – in a proportion that no one knows – since it does not exist and will not exist for one or two years a vaccine and that treatments are still in the experimental stage.

Containment is a political trap

Obviously, no one realized that it was going to be very difficult to get out of the containment once decided without political damage, a part of the public opinion risking to be self-persuaded over the days that it is in eradicating the disease. If the pandemic continues to kill, and it will, the government will be automatically accused of endangering the health of its citizens to save “the economy”, a swear word for some French people as if working for a living was secondary to health… In other words, the temptation will be strong to return to blind confinement to silence the controversies or to get out of them as late as possible, the path chosen by France after six weeks of state of emergency sanitary.

This is also why countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Germany or the Netherlands either have not adopted this strategy, letting life take its normal course, or have applied it with much more finesse, which made it possible to avoid passing through the box of exceptional powers entrusted to the executive and especially to break the economy.

Why confine an entire country?

This total foreclosure of a country is all the more questionable since whole regions were and are almost untouched by the virus: why impose the same treatment in Creuse as in Ile de France, in Puglia as in Milan ? Why not have it confined to the extent of the pandemic, just like Germany, where the Länder are competent in public health, has done with the success we know? Thus, from the start, two foci were identified in France: the Oise and Mulhouse. However, rather than reacting immediately by isolating these two regions and deploying military medical means to relieve hospitals, the government procrastinated, allowing the virus to spread. It remains staggering that it was not until March 24, a week after the decision to confine the country, that the military medical service was sent to reinforce Mulhouse! From there to think that total containment was also motivated by the inability of the authorities to anticipate the crisis, there is only one step that I will be careful not to take.

Similarly, the choice of companies to close and the precautions to be taken would also have been a possible area of ​​discussion. For example, it quickly became known that air conditioning allowed the virus to circulate more than a meter and contaminate many people. So does closing shoe repair shops, art galleries or florists and leaving supermarkets open make medical sense? Likewise, was school closure necessary? All this was left to the discretion of a bureaucracy without control and without any consultation with all economic and social actors.

Why place an entire population under residence?

Finally, it appeared very early on that the disease was overwhelmingly fatal for people over the age of 70 (average age of death in Italy or France: 80) and those with serious pathologies, in particular clear the weak. Was it therefore rational to confine all assets and plunge the country into recession? Perhaps we should have focused on protecting these at-risk groups rather than putting a whole country under wraps without thinking of tomorrow, especially since we know full well that the virus is here for a long time.

The debate becomes, at this point, particularly emotional, because it refers to our relationship to death. Why has such a pandemic, which is not the first the world has faced and which is especially far from being the most deadly in history, led states to decide on unprecedented measures while knowing that they were not a cure? Why such a panic, especially when you compare the mortality caused by the coronavirus with that of other diseases? Although we must still be careful, since five months after its appearance, we still know very little about covid-19, which should warn us about the scientism that seized us, the doctors having said everything and its contrary to this pandemic, making political decision particularly difficult. However, let’s remember that 400,000 new cancers are diagnosed each year in France and that 150,000 French people die from it, and yet tobacco and alcohol are still not banned, while that would avoid much of it. If all life deserves to be saved, why be so casual about cancer? Similarly, seasonal flu (while there is a vaccine that a large majority considers dispensable) kill each year between 3,000 and 15,000 people (not to mention the more than 30,000 deaths from the Hong Kong flu in 1969 in a country of 51 million inhabitants or the equivalent number of deaths in 1959 in a country of 45 million inhabitants), seasonal respiratory infections 68,000 people, road accidents 3500 people to which must be added the disabled for life. And yet, no one has thought of banning the car (and every measure aimed at strengthening safety has its share of protests, remember the 80 km / h) or to make the fight against pollution or junk food a categorical imperative.

If we look at the statistics of mortality in the world, we see that hunger (yet easy and inexpensive to eradicate), malaria, AIDS or even wars (often made with the weapons produced by our industries) kill infinitely more than the coronavirus will ever kill.

Choose your comrade side, but there is only one good side, that of containment!

It would probably be necessary to question the responsibility of the audiovisual media in this panic which has taken hold of Western public opinion (with a German exception, German televisions having voluntarily decided to treat covid-19 in the place it deserves). Announce every morning the number of dead without putting them in perspective (compared to the usual average of the dead, their age, the comorbidity from which they suffered, etc.), devote entire newspapers to the pandemic can only shake even the best made heads … Imagine that every morning the number of deaths in France is truncated for all causes and that all the newspapers are devoted to it: who would still dare to simply live?

This is not to say that a death is immaterial, but simply that any public policy must be subject to a cost-benefit assessment. If we do not ban the sale of weapons, tobacco, alcohol, cars, trucks, thermal power stations, it is because collectively we believe that the cost would be greater than the benefit we would derive from it. But this debate, in the emotional surge that has been going on for two months, is in fact prohibited. Those who dared to question the chosen strategy and especially on its duration were pilloried by the most radical, those who are heard. To be opposed to the prolongation of confinement is to be for the “sacrifice” of those who are sick, “to spit in the mouth of the dead” and so on. In short, choose your comrade side, but there is only one good side, that of containment! I have even been threatened with death, myself and my family, by good people who believe that all life must be saved at any cost without the contradiction of their words touching their minds for daring to me. question in two tweets from April 9, three weeks after the start of confinement: ” It’s crazy when you think about it: plunging the world into the worst recession since the Second World War for a pandemic that has so far killed less than 100,000 people (not to mention their advanced age) in a world of 7 billion inhabitants. Seasonal flu, which kills especially young children, is between 290,000 and 650,000 per year worldwide. And everyone fucks, but serious. “

The worst recession of all time outside of the war (and more)

However, confinement will lead to an unimaginable recession by its violence: it should reach between 8% and 15% of GDP, an unprecedented decline in activity in peacetime (we must go back to 1942 to record a recession of -10 %). We have never brought an economy to a complete halt as we have just done, we must be aware of this. Partial unemployment now affects nearly twelve million workers (one in two private workers!) And the layoffs caused by thousands of business bankruptcies will number in the hundreds of thousands or even millions once the partial unemployment scheme supported by the state will expire (because it costs a fortune). And the longer the shutdown, the more difficult it will be to restart. The cost generated by the establishment of a social safety net and by economic plans will lead to an unprecedented deterioration in public accounts and the young generations who will have to pay twice for confinement: by the loss of their jobs and by raising taxes for those who will keep it.

It should not be forgotten that unemployment is also a health catastrophe, but more diffuse and therefore socially more acceptable: we thus estimate at 14,000 the deaths which it causes each year in France by induced diseases. And how not to speak of its procession of misery, hunger, social downgrading, etc. The effects of confinement are also going to have terrible consequences on the minds of French people, on violence against women and children, on their health (for example, early screenings for cancer, stroke, heart attack are suspended and nothing is known about suicides, etc.), about dropping out of school (how many children have simply disappeared from the system? ).

A lastingly weakened rule of law

Finally, to believe that public freedoms, democracy, will come out intact from this episode is just a sweet dream. The state of health emergency will remain enshrined in our law for a long time exactly as the state of emergency, launched in 2015, was finally incorporated into ordinary law. It is rare for a state to give up on its own the powers gained over the legislature and the justice system. The tracking of individuals, via smartphones, which some consider to be a necessity, could well become the rule in the name of safeguarding our health which has become THE priority, privacy being reduced to the rank of concern of another age. Having chosen total containment and the state of emergency will leave lasting traces in French democracy.

I do not pretend to provide an answer here. Simply, the first elements of the deconfinement show that another way would have been possible: confinement not department, wide discretion left to local authorities, referral to the judicial judge to register the carriers of the virus, etc. I just regret the absence of democratic deliberation before the establishment of the state of health emergency and its extension. As if sacrificing generations under the age of 60 and suspending the rule of law were obvious facts.

In provisional conclusion, I think that we should not be mistaken about the meaning of the unimaginable event that we are experiencing: it is the triumph of individualism, that of the immediate health of the individual in the face of well-being current and future collective. The terms of the debate are in reality identical to those of climate change: should we accept to sacrifice our immediate well-being to ensure the survival of the human species?

Some reading tips:

Note from the magistrates’ union on the state of health emergency

“Let us beware of falling into a sickly, viro-induced, social and political reactivity”

The catastrophic cost-benefit of containment

Breaking out of blind confinement

Dare to discuss confinement (a Belgian point of view)

Will the remedy ultimately be worse than the coronavirus? (a Swiss point of view)

“Let us die as we wish” and “I prefer to catch covid-19 in a free country than to escape it in a totalitarian state”


strawberry producers are struggling

Gariguette, Ciflorette, Mara des bois … Strawberries usually brighten up spring tables. But in March, during the first weeks of containment imposed by the Covid-19 health crisis, consumers shunned them, plunging producers into a bad patch.

→ LIVE. Coronavirus: the latest news in France and worldwide

The closure of restaurants and markets has made it impossible to sell early crops. Part of the production – from 20 to 30% – has been destroyed. “We distributed several tons, to hospitals, the food bank, firefighters”, testifies Bruno Vila, strawberry producer in Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales).

Highlight French strawberries

On the stalls of the large distribution, the Spanish strawberries sat enthroned while the French producers threw. We asked the bosses of large and medium-sized areas to highlight the asparagus and strawberries from local producers “, explains Jérôme Despey, secretary general of the FNSEA and president of the Hérault chamber of agriculture.

Little by little, the market has recovered but producers’ revenues remain precarious. “Sales improved significantly in early April. Supermarkets are now promoting the French origin of products. But we are far from having made up for our losses “, notes Bruno Vila.

Peak direct sales

Those who, like Olivier Cozon, producer of fruit and vegetables in the Hérault, have long wagered on direct sales are now making a splash. “We have been delivering baskets for fifteen years. Eight hundred people are chasing us right now! We currently deliver 500 baskets per week, instead of a hundred in normal times, ” explains the producer, who heads a farm with around ten permanent employees.

The arms are missing

If the production flow is now in working order, another problem arises: the lack of manpower for collection. “Half of the workforce is local, the other half usually come from Poland, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Some workers still managed to cross the Spanish border in early April, but now no exceptions are possible “, notes Xavier Mas, president of the Fraises de France association.

→ READ. Coronavirus: agriculture lacks arms

In the south-east, where the harvest is early, producers were able to anticipate and bring in seasonal workers. “But in Val-de-Loire, Rhône-Alpes and central France, it looks complicated. We are at an impasse “, worries Xavier Mas. Launched at the end of March by the government, the platform for calling for volunteers, “arms on your plate” has already allowed producers to recruit, but the hiring conditions have some limits.

The call for volunteers

“We had a lot of volunteers, explains Hélène Suzor, in charge of the fruit and vegetable sector at the Hérault Chamber of Agriculture. This solidarity is very significant, but it faces a problem of sustainability. Each volunteer must be able to be released from his agricultural mission within seven days to resume his usual activity. This is therefore very worrying for producers who would prefer to be able to count on a sustainable workforce during the season. “


Confinement puts the French economy “in a state of anesthesia”

France is “Like an organism placed in a state of anesthesia” who “Only performs its vital functions”. In its last note published on April 23, INSEE confirms that the French economy is largely at a standstill, after five weeks of confinement.

→ LIVE. Coronavirus: information in France and worldwide

The organization estimates that the general level of activity in France has been cut by a third since mid-March. In the market sector (the one that produces goods and services that are sold), the drop in activity is even half, with some differences according to the branches.

Hotels and restaurants are logically among the most affected with a fall of 91%; automotive construction is down 72%; 80% refining; 55% trade. Compared to the last INSEE note, at the end of March, the situation is improving slightly in industry (- 39% instead of – 43%) and in construction (- 79% instead of – 88% ).

Some restaurants reopen for take-out

“Right now, a lot of companies are not even allowed to work,” regrets Alain Griset, president of the U2P, the Union of local businesses, who cites aesthetics and hairstyle … They want to reopen. But even for those who are licensed, activity is low. On average, we are barely 50% and in the building, not even 20% ”.

The construction sector itself is very diverse. “The building ranges from the craftsman alone to large public order sites. Small businesses are more agile and many of them have maintained their activity, which was not possible on larger sites. “, observes Vincent Frayssinet, director general of the French Building Federation for the Ile-de-France East.

As for the restaurants, some of those that were closed have been tentatively trying to open their doors for the past few days. Not for terrace service; only so customers or couriers can wait for takeout. ” Some establishments have gone on take-out for the past few days, admits an employer manager in the sector. But it is a very marginal and essentially urban phenomenon. “

Public services work

On the other hand, certain branches are still little affected by confinement. This is the case of finance, which is at its usual level of activity, or of food production, which only drops by 5%. In agriculture, the decline is 13%. The drop also remains limited in services “Non-merchants”, reflecting the fact that most public services, from health to police to education, continue to operate.

This calculation is based on an analysis of the value produced. INSEE also compared these figures with data on the conditions of employment of employees collected from companies with 10 or more employees and figures on partial unemployment. Today, nearly one in two private sector employees, or ten million people, are affected by partial unemployment measures. This device was requested by 820,000 companies, more than 6 out of 10.

In private companies with more than 10 employees, we observe a distribution in four equal parts: a quarter of the employees goes to work, a quarter is in telework, a quarter in partial unemployment and a quarter in sick leave or paid holidays.

No sign of massive short-time fraud

The situation is of course very different depending on the sectors and the size of the companies. “Today, out of the 77,000 employees of Engie in France, 32% are teleworking, 18% are on site, 31% on miscellaneous leave and 19% on partial unemployment “, Says Pierre Deheunynck, the group’s human resources director. For staff placed on partial unemployment, the group has committed to ” maintenance of purchasing power By encouraging its employees to take time off and RTT.

INSEE tried to verify that the data on activity, on conditions of employment and on partial unemployment do not present a contradiction. The organization concludes that they “Are consistent with the assumption of an economy turning at around two thirds of its capacity, all sectors included, with a more marked fall for the merchant sector”. This tends to show that there is no massive partial unemployment fraud, despite some testimony that has shown that companies here and there may have taken advantage of the windfall.


The eurozone at a standstill

Private sector activity in the euro area collapsed in April at an “unprecedented” rate, as a result of measures taken to halt the spread of the coronavirus, according to the first estimate, Thursday, April 23, Markit firm composite index.
The monthly index is 13.5 points, compared to 29.7 points in March, which constitutes “By far the largest contraction in overall activity recorded in more than twenty years of surveys.” “In comparison, the index fell to 36.2 in February 2009, the height of the global financial crisis,” emphasizes the cabinet.


The FNSEA assumes the rise in prices and calls for “eating French”

Eating fruits and vegetables has been more expensive since the coronavirus epidemic began. On average, a household’s shopping basket would have increased from € 12 to € 15. This is what emerges from the survey conducted by the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir, which found, after four weeks of confinement, an increase of 6% for conventional products and up to 12% for organic products. .

→ LIVE. Coronavirus: the deconfinement strategy unveiled Tuesday at 3 p.m.

An increase which could be explained, according to Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA, the main agricultural union, less by inflation than by the new appetite of the French for national productions.

“Fruits and vegetables are more expensive because they are French. This is explained by a higher cost of labor and more demanding health standards than in certain competing countries “, detailed Christiane Lambert during a press briefing Friday, April 24.

This one assumes besides, like the whole of the profession, the situation. “Today, producers sell their asparagus and strawberries at a remunerative price and that’s good”, she adds. However, it turns out that a French strawberry can cost between 70% and 100% more expensive than a Spanish strawberry.

Less competitive competition

The increase is also due to an evolution of the shelved offer. The circulation restrictions put in place worldwide to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have meant that fewer Spanish and Moroccan fruits and vegetables are now sold on French stalls.

What is more, foreign agricultural producers encounter the same difficulties in producing and harvesting as their French counterparts and they have to increase their prices, at the risk of making themselves less competitive.

Another explanation: prices systematically increase between March and April due to the change of season. “But there is no spectacular flight, despite the increase in transport costs, says Laurent Grandin, president of Interfel, the fruit and vegetable industry. We do everything to maintain the accessibility of our products. “

“Our jobs are your shopping!” “

For its part, the French government has assured that it will take care to avoid any spike in prices, but it believes that the increase noted so far remains bearable. At the beginning of April, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire thus recalled: “What we pay in addition is of course the quality of French production. “

For the FNSEA, the challenge now is to register this trend over time. “Eat French!” French producers need you to stay loyal to them “, insists Christiane Lambert. The FNSEA president notably draws consumers’ attention to the products that have suffered the most from the crisis: certain poultry such as pigeon or quail, french fries and cut cheeses.

“We want to show that we can put on the market more expensive, but more qualitative products, which maintain the French agricultural sector, says Christiane Lambert. Our jobs are your shopping! “


Farmers fear the third consecutive drought summer

Dusseldorf The worried look of the farmers goes up and then down these days. For several weeks there have been hardly any rain clouds in the sky, which means that the ground is becoming increasingly dry. Memories come back to the years 2018 and 2019, when it was raining too little and the harvest of cereals and rapeseed was far below average. Now there is growing fear that it could happen in 2020.

“If it stays that dry, it could be another very difficult year for German agriculture,” says Joachim Rukwied, President of the German Farmers’ Association. “A third year of drought would hit many of our farms even harder than the last.”

2020 hadn’t started badly. “From January to mid-March we had even more rain than usual,” says farmer Till Bredtmann, who runs a farm in Velbert in North Rhine-Westphalia, “but it has been dry since March 16”. According to calculations by the German Weather Service (DWD), less than ten liters per square meter of precipitation fell from March 14 to April 18 in many places.

Tobias Fuchs from the DWD told the Tagesschau that only about ten percent of the normal rainfall fell in April. In addition, the floors were also dried out by the strong wind.

This brings back memories of the past problem years. However, the water reservoirs in the soil were well filled last winter, the DWD says. Farmer Bredtmann also says: “I don’t see any catastrophe yet, but if it stays dry longer, it will be difficult”. The next few weeks are crucial for whether the drought will become a tangible problem, the experts agree.

It is not so easy to answer whom the weather affects and to what extent. The basic nature and water retention of the soil play a major role in the resilience of the cultivation. Another key question is which products are sown and harvested. For example, grasses for fodder cultivation are very susceptible to prolonged drought.

During the 2018 drought, it became clear that cereals and rapeseed suffered significantly, while asparagus harvests were stable and fruit was even better than average.

Demanding more commitment to climate protection

Nevertheless, the current dry weather reflexively raises two questions. First, is there another year of drought in 2020? The honest answer is: Nobody can say that exactly. The DWD writes on its homepage: “It is not yet possible to assess whether May will bring more precipitation after what is likely to be a very dry April.” To be prepared in an emergency, farmers can take out drought insurance, the value added tax of which has been reduced retrospectively from January 1, 2020 from 19 to 0.3 percent of the sum insured.

The second question is: Are the dry periods a sign of climate change? A clear answer is not possible here either. Climate change makes extreme weather conditions more likely, according to the DWD. However, it is difficult to prove whether a specific event can be attributed to this. Farmer Bredtmann states: “There has been a lot of dry summer in April and May in recent years”

German farmers are concerned about drought

The farmers’ association and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture still agree that again more needs to be done for climate protection. Farmer President Rukwied says: “As farmers, we are increasingly dealing with extreme weather conditions. It would be unwise to put climate protection on the back burner, even if the focus is now on dealing with the corona pandemic “.

It is clear that agriculture itself also has a role to play. The ministry speaks of the farmers as “victims and participants” of the climate crisis and refers to a ten-point plan to combat the problem with measures to reduce CO2. The reform of EU agricultural subsidies should also have the right steering effect towards more environmentally sustainable agriculture. An agreement in Brussels on how this could look exactly is far from in sight.

Farmer Till Bredtmann, who has been practicing organic farming for 35 years, draws attention to another problem: “Consumers demand this, but in practice it looks different, because most people just want the cheapest possible food.”

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