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NewsFrom Guadeloupe and Over Seas to Europe, Pirbakas Fights for Farmer Rights

From Guadeloupe and Over Seas to Europe, Pirbakas Fights for Farmer Rights

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As the agricultural sector in France braces for the annual Salon de l’agriculture in Paris amid a resurgence of farmer mobilization and growing discontent, the spotlight often misses a critical segment of the French agricultural landscape—the overseas territories. MEP Maxette Pirbakas, herself a fifth-generation farmer from Guadeloupe, has raised her voice to ensure these regions are not forgotten.

In a powerful statement, Pirbakas highlighted the distinct challenges faced by farmers in France’s overseas departments and territories. “At a time when we are witnessing a resurgence of farmer mobilization, due to growing discontent just a few days before the opening of the Salon de l’agriculture in Paris; while the farmers’ movement currently enjoys significant public support; and farmers are courted by all political parties for political gain; it is essential not to forget the agricultural operators in the overseas territories,” Pirbakas said.

She emphasized the unique issues these territories face, which differ significantly from those on the mainland. These include unfair competition, insufficient agricultural product pricing, and an excess of norms and administrative constraints. A specific point of contention is the pricing model for sugarcane in Guadeloupe, which has remained unchanged for over 60 years, prompting local farmers to mobilize.

The geographical, climatic, and historical specificities of these territories necessitate a tailored approach to agriculture. Despite common challenges across these regions, each territory faces unique obstacles due to its specific geographical, demographic, and climatic conditions, and regional environment.

Pirbakas pointed out the multifunctionality of agriculture in overseas territories as a common factor, encompassing economic, ecological, and social components. A notable feature of agriculture in these regions is the prevalence of small and very small farms, or micro-farms, which play a crucial role in preventing urban exodus and maintaining rural activity, especially in areas with high potential.

Moreover, the larger, more productive farms in these territories, often focused on exports like sugar and bananas, face their own set of distinct challenges. These farms, along with their smaller counterparts, contribute significantly to the economy and play a fundamental ecological and social role, more so than their mainland counterparts.

Highlighting the administrative classification of these small-scale farms as “Small-Scale Bioeconomic and Agroecological Agricultures” (APEBA), Pirbakas called for the integration of practices that preserve water and soil quality, rehabilitate irrigation systems, and revise public agricultural policies and pricing norms to level the playing field with direct competitors who do not face the same obligations.

With the fragile ecosystems of the overseas territories, there is a pressing need to balance agricultural production with environmental respect. This includes addressing challenges such as climate change, which these territories face more acutely than the mainland.

Referencing a 2016 Senate report titled “Agriculture in Overseas Territories: No Future Without Adaptation of the Normative Framework,” Pirbakas questioned what public authorities have done since the report to improve the situation for overseas farmers. She called on metropolitan public and union authorities not to overlook their overseas colleagues in discussions and negotiations. “We must be represented and heard,” Pirbakas concluded, underscoring the need for a united approach to address the specific agricultural challenges of France’s overseas territories.

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