Pressure from the catering sector on the executive. Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx, president of the main employers’ union in the hotel and catering industry, Umih, asks to be received ” as soon as possible » by the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne. Objective, to counter Bercy, whose boss, Bruno Le Maire, indicated the day before that he was considering perpetuating the possibility of purchasing food products – non-consumable directly, such as pasta and eggs – at the supermarket with meal vouchers.
“ With its about-face on the extension of the use of meal vouchers to food products, the Government is sending a very bad signal to our profession », he laments in a press release sent to AFP this Thursday, November 16.
200 million euros shortfall
“ In meal voucher, there is “restaurant”. This title must remain a lunch aid for employees who do not have a company restaurant. It must not become a shopping cart voucher », asserts the chef.
“ In 2023, there will be a shortfall of 200 million euros for our restaurateurs “, he assesses, recalling “ that in 2023, mass distribution saw its meal voucher market share increase by more than 6% (when) that of restaurants decreased by 3% “.
As a reminder, the legislative text introduced the possibility of purchasing food products that are not directly consumable (flour, pasta, rice, eggs, fish, meat, etc.) in supermarkets with meal vouchers. The stated objective is to support household purchasing power in a context of high inflation following the war in Ukraine. However, this measure was only temporary in scope: the exemption should, in theory, end on December 31, 2023.
“ I can clearly hear the voices expressing themselves about the usefulness of this title, in times of inflation, for everyday shopping. Inflation concerns all French people. The rise in prices also impacts our restaurateurs », criticizes Thierry Marx.
Bercy yet in favor of the measure
Consequently, the boss of restaurateurs does not hide his intentions: to obtain “a rapid return to the situation preceding the 2022 law”.
But faced with the outcry caused by the end of the system, Bercy announced its wish to extend it in 2024, or even make it permanent. “ Beyond the one-year extension » of this derogatory use, announced Tuesday by the government, “ I am ready for us to open the discussion on the more general use of these tickets to buy food », Confirmed the Minister of Economy and Finance on Europe 1 and CNews on Wednesday.
“ Shouldn’t we use meal vouchers more generally for the purchase of food products? Shouldn’t we change this name which is a little misleading? With a single obsession, that it corresponds to people’s expectations “, he asked.
The day before, he had said to himself: favorable » to an extension of the use of these titles, for food products which are not directly consumable, beyond 2023, saying “ to study » how to achieve this.
“ I am in favor of extending this provision allowing restaurant vouchers to be used to purchase food products beyond December 31, 2023. », declared the tenant of Bercy, before the Senate Economic Affairs Committee.
Commercial negotiations soon advanced
This announcement comes as the executive is about to announce the anticipation of a few weeks of commercial negotiations, between supermarkets and manufacturers for 2024. A measure supposed to fight against the inflation of food prices, but castigated by the opposition which judge it to be ineffective at best.
Parliament, in fact, adopted on Tuesday, November 14, the government bill which notably relies on the fact that reductions in the price of raw materials will be reflected on the shelves earlier, from January-February. As a reminder, negotiations traditionally conclude on March 1, in order to set the conditions of sale (purchase price, shelf space, promotional calendar, etc.) for the entire following year. However, the government has decided to exceptionally bring them forward for the year 2024 on the grounds that the reductions in the prices of numerous raw materials (wheat, sunflower, corn, oils, etc.) were not passed on the previous year to the prices invoiced to distributors by manufacturers.
Food inflation is very difficult to control…
Will the extension of the use of meal vouchers, coupled with the progress of commercial negotiations, be sufficient? Not sure. If we are to believe the boss of major industrialists. Prices requested by food manufacturers from distributors for 2024 as part of commercial negotiations are ” rather on the rise » but less than in 2023their representative, Ilec, said on RMC on Wednesday.
The boss of the UMIH calls on the government to “ design a food voucher or a food check to fight inflation and help the most disadvantaged “. An idea that is far from new. And for good reason, it had been mentioned by the executive, before being dismissed, given the complexity of the system to be put in place, as the criteria to be taken into account were numerous (target, payment terms, basket of products concerned, etc.).
… Food aid associations are struggling
For several months already, associations fighting against poverty have been sounding the alarm: the number of aid recipients, and in particular households dependent on food distribution, is skyrocketing. To the point that several structures, such as the Restos du Cœur, have requested support from the State and individuals.
“ It’s cracking everywhere “, reported to AFP Pascal Brice, president of the Federation of Solidarity Actors (FAS), which brings together some 800 associations fighting against precariousness and at the origin of a call for mobilization at mid -october.
“ The call from Restos du coeur highlighted this: we have situations of precariousness that are spreading and getting worse and we have associations that are exhausted and lacking resources. », he listed. He then described it as “ very worrying ” there ” situation of people and the capacity of associations to cope “.
The Restos du Coeur, which provides 35% of food aid in France, particularly made an impression at the beginning of September, by warning that they would be forced to restrict the number of their beneficiaries this winter. In the process, the executive unveiled its new strategy to combat poverty on September 18.
Measures that go in the right direction, but which remain very insufficient, according to those in the field. The Federation of Solidarity Actors is calling in particular for an increase in social minimums. More than nine million people live below the poverty line in France, or with less than 1,120 euros per month for a single person, according to 2020 data from the National Institute of Statistics (Insee).