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What are we to make of the French prime minister’s announcement that he will enshrine in law France’s self-reliance for food? What a noble endeavour! How great for a nation to be able to feed itself without assistance.

But what foods would that be, and would everything else be banned from import? Will parliament dictate a full national menu, or would it specify a minimum nutritional metric; say one cheese platter and a loaf? What about nuts or exotic fruits? Does that count as food? Will the “les Français” be allowed their macarons and eclairs?

When you try to understand the true content of Gabriel Attal’s pronouncement, the only conclusion is the set-up of a Soviet-style bureau dedicated to determining the meal de jour, and setting the national agricultural policy accordingly. It requires a ban on foreign food imports, a nation of subsidised farmers, and a police apparatus to ensure no smuggling of petites bonbons.

It is crazy for a government to consider policies of self-sufficiency in a world of opportunity. It is bad for consumers, with reduced choice, higher prices and transfer of wealth to a vested interest.

There is also the problem of concentrated geographic risk. What would happen if France were to suffer a nationwide weather event or a severe crop blight? Ask those Chinese old enough to remember Mao’s agricultural policies. Oh, wait, you can’t. They’re dead from famine.

The reality is that in Attal’s announcement we find a desperate politician, pandering to a lobby group. The current protesters are understandably upset at the existing policies foisted on them either directly or indirectly from the EU (“Farmers send a message to EU leaders with fires, stones and eggs”, February 1). In the words of the French farmers, they are “choked by taxes and green rules”. So get rid of those!

How lucky we are that our government would never do anything so stupid.

Neil Emerick
Hout Bay

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French farmers and protestors block an Edouard Leclerc distribution centre in protest over farming rules in Saint-Etienne-de-Montluc near Nantes Picture: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
French farmers and protestors block an Edouard Leclerc distribution centre in protest over farming rules in Saint-Etienne-de-Montluc near Nantes Picture: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
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