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The UIPP (Union des Industries de la Protection des Plantes) (www.uipp.org) is the trade association for crop protection companies in France. Jean Charles Bocquet, its director general joined the association in July 2002 with 25 years experience in the crop protection business. From 1977 to 1988 he was involved in the technical development activities of Hoechst/Roussel Uclaf in France, Europe and the Far East. He then changed companies and from 1988 through to 2002 worked with DuPont in what he describes as a very international environment. He had roles in marketing, sales and business management, product development and communication and spent three years working in Spain and Portugal. He believes that he has brought to the UIPP a good industry network and broad knowledge of the product life cycle as well as experience of advocacy and stewardship. In another in the series of interviews with ‘Captains of the Industry’, Crop Protection Monthly took the opportunity to ask Mr Bocquet about some of the issues currently impacting on the French crop protection market.

France has been the dominant market in the EU and still generates nearly 30% of the total sales in the 25 member states. However, there are now more significant economic pressures on farmers than ever before and increasing public concerns about the safety of pesticides. Are these factors having any impact on the sales value of the agrochemical sector in France and what are the current market trends?

The French market is in a very difficult situation at present. There are most definitely economic pressures on farmers and socio-political trends which are encouraging farmers to reduce their use of crop protection products. But there are also problems with the pesticide registration system due to a lack of resources, ineffective procedures and the application of the precautionary principle. On top of that we have had a number of difficult seasons in France with extensive drought problems. As a result, the market value which was €2.2 billion (ex manufacturer) in 1999 is now at €1.8 billion. As far as the outlook is concerned, I do not foresee any significant change. Farmers will take a much more reasoned approach to crop protection and will only spray if necessary. The CAP reforms will certainly put continuing pressure on the use of all farm inputs. The Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides, the national risk reduction plan for pesticides and other regulations under consideration will all have a negative impact. There are also some other factors  that will bring a degree of uncertainty to the industry. A new system for the evaluation and registration of pesticides is going to be introduced in France later this year. The evaluation of pesticides will be transferred to AFSSA (Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments) and there is considerable concern about the government’s ability to administer it effectively. We are worried that innovative products that are introduced in other EU member states will not be made available at the same time in France. We are also waiting to see what impact there is on the market from crops grown for alternative uses such as biofuel and ethanol.

A pesticide tax was introduced in France to encourage the use of safer, less toxic pesticides. Has the tax had a significant impact. If not does the UIPP have any alternative proposals?

The pesticide tax (TGAP) was introduced in 2000, at a very difficult time when many changes were taking place in French agriculture. As a result, the impact was not as significant as was expected. With the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, new water legistation is currently under discussion in the French parliament. As a result the current TGAP system will almost certainly be reviewed. It is very likely that a tax will be used in the future to incentivise Good Agricultural Practices which respect to the water environment. The UIPP is supportive of this new approach as long as the system is based on a risk approach and not hazard alone. The system must be simple to implement and should be designed to ensure that important products do not disappear from the market.

The UIPP has surveyed French consumers’ perceptions about pesticides. What did the survey find ? Have you surveyed attitudes to GMOs in France?

We are monitoring consumer and opinion leader perceptions regarding pesticides on a regular basis. The main finding is that consumers do not really understand pesticides. They are not well informed about the registration process and the benefits that the products can bring. They are, however, made aware of the risk aspects associated with pesticide because of the activities of anti pesticides activists and specific media campaigns. Our surveys show that the public is open to developing a dialogue with the pesticide industry and is seeking more information.

31 March 2006                           © Market Scope Europe Ltd                          www.crop-protection-monthly.co.uk

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