Accepted Paper:

What is the 'right price' for food? The French "Etats Généraux de l'Alimentation" and the attempt to tame markets  


Pierre-Benoit Joly (INRA / UPEM)

Paper short abstract:

What is the 'right price' for food? This question was at the core of the "Etats Genéraux de l'Alimentation" organised in France in fall 2017. This paper will provide an analysis of this debate and the way economics and stakeholders' arguments are mobilised and are translated into a new law.

Paper long abstract:

The ability of markets to correctly value agricultural products has been discussed for long. However, in the late 80's, the belief that markets mechanisms are more efficient that State regulation led to the wave of market deregulation. The computation of prices based on standardised production costs was given up.

Surprisingly enough, this issue is again on top of the French agricultural policy agenda and it was at the core of the recent "Etats Généraux de l'Alimentation" (EGA). President Macron recalled the two major objectives expected from this broad consultation: on the one hand, "to enable farmers to live at the right price, to allow everyone in the value chain to live with dignity", and on the other hand "to allow everyone to have access to healthy, sustainable and safe food" (my emphasis).

Drawing on STS, economic sociology and pragmatic sociology, the objective of this paper is to analyse why and how market regulation is challenged, and what type of mechanisms are proposed to improve price setting. Our analysis will be based on three sets of data: (i) economic debates and institutional devices to observe agricultural prices; (ii) dossier of the EGA (debates, citizens' consultation, and conclusion); (iii) dossier of the new Law project.

The paper will address the following questions: how 'right price' is defined by actors concerned? How economists and price observatory contribute? Is it only a French debate?

Panel C28
Meetings over and around food