down on the farm

French farmers are committing suicide at alarming rates

October 11, 2013
October 11, 2013

France’s agriculture sector has suffered its fair share of setbacks lately. But here’s a particularly gruesome one: Farmer suicides are adding to the industry’s struggles.

A new report (link in French) released yesterday (Oct. 10) by French health institute INVS reveals that nearly 500 farmers in the country took their own lives between 2007 and 2009. That’s roughly a suicide every other day, French news outlet The Local points out. The suicide rate among French farmers is more than 20% higher than that of the general populous, which is an even greater concern when one considers that France already has an alarmingly high suicide rate compared to its European neighbors; suicide rates in France, for example, are twice those of Spain and the UK. Only cancer and cardio-vascular disease are greater causes of death amongst French farmers.

France’s mounting suicide problem reflects its suffering agriculture sector, which has buckled amid rising prices for inputs like fertilizers and feed. The economic squeeze has been especially hard on the country’s livestock sector, which registered the highest farmer suicide rates. Livestock farmers face particularly slim profit margins and have been unable to pass along higher costs to food manufacturers and retailers. In January, French farmers took to the streets to protest new environmental regulations that have hiked up costs further.

To placate restless farmers, French president François Hollande redirected nearly a €1 billion in subsidies from the European Union last week to help those most affected by the sour economy. (France is the EU’s top agricultural producer as well as the biggest beneficiary of EU aid.) INVS plans to carry out another study to determine whether the suicide problem among France’s farmers extends into 2010 and 2011.

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