The phenomenon is old, but the “francization” of fruits and vegetables is raging more and more on the markets. This fraudulent business practice “Consists in making consumers believe that the products are of French origin when they are not – by replacing, for example, labels from Spain with others indicating a French origin, or by editing false invoices on which are written “origin: France”, summarizes, to Release Romain Roussel, Chief of Staff at the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF).
If the DGCCRF says it is increasing its surveillance missions, again this Monday, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler found himself at the heart of a vast investigation, suspected of having passed off as French products hundreds of tons of zucchini, peppers , squash or asparagus Spanish for two years. Because of false labels and invoices, he was “Impossible for its customers, and the end consumer, to realize that they were, in fact, Spanish vegetables”, specifies the prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhône.
These deceptive actions for consumers also represent a significant handicap on the other side of the sector, according to Patrice Vulpian, producer of apricots and peaches and co-president of the National Federation of Fruit Producers, interviewed by Release.
What is at the origin of this fraud?
This practice is mainly due to the fact that legislation in Europe is not the same for everyone. In Spain, they have a huge competitive advantage with a production cost which is much lower than ours, which means that they can resell fruits much cheaper than ours while remaining profitable.
This phenomenon has also worsened this year because of the weather and in particular episodes of frost which have led to numerous losses and an increase in the prices of French goods, which have become more rare. For some producers who were out of stock, the opportunity may have been too tempting.
But it is a real stab at producers chained to their cost of production, who find themselves facing people who illegally take advantage of prices with a huge margin.
Especially since these practices are easy to implement …
Indeed, there is a real difficulty in catching this kind of person in the act and proving it. While to defraud, it suffices to change a label on a crate and it is still impossible today to be able to determine through an analysis of which region a product comes from.
So obviously, for people with bad intentions, it allows them to very easily earn 30 to 40 cents per kilo. I let you imagine the benefits for semi-trailers that transport several tens of tons …
How to fight against this phenomenon?
This is the role of the DGCCRF. But on our scale, we must be attentive to the excessive price differences which can only be explained by “francization”. Concretely, a size B peach that sells for 1.20 euros, there is a problem because it must sell for 2.10 euros. It’s complicated for consumers, I admit, but if they are wondering about the provenance of the fruit they buy, that’s always the case.
More generally, everyone must take responsibility, including the purchasing centers, which are justified with invoices on which it is indicated that they are French fruits and who do not seek to know more about it. closing my eyes to the rest. They are also guilty, because their duty is to know where exactly their products come from, especially since it is a small world where, when you want to have information, you can get it easily.
For our part, we asked the public prosecutor to warn us so that we act as a civil party for each case. This year, we won our case in three different “francization” trials, particularly with regard to kiwi fruit.