France is a world class competitor in agriculture products and food processing and clearly intends to maintain that position. France's major promotion organizations include the Societe pour l'Expansion des Ventes des Produits Agricoles et Alimentaires (SOPEXA) and the Centre Francaise du Commerce Exterieur (CFCE). In addition, the Compagnie Francaise d'Assurances pour le Commerce Exterieur (COFACE), France's export credit insurance agency, offers credit guarantees to exporters for market research and promotion, including participation in trade fairs in countries outside the EU. Total French government allocations to export market promotion by SOPEXA are estimated at $35.4 million; industry contributions to SOPEXA's international promotion budget totaled $44.2 million.
Recent speeches by President Chirac and Foreign Affairs Minister Herve de Charrette underscore the importance of export promotion to the French government. President Chirac called on French ambassadors to become more active in supporting French companies in their overseas marketing efforts. A reorganization of French government export promotion activities will direct funds and programs increasingly to small- and medium-size companies. In the agricultural sector, programs already are aimed at small- and medium-size firms.
SOPEXA is a semi-private organization owned by various French agricultural and food organizations and the Government of France. SOPEXA's funding comes from user fees (in some cases, generated from producer assessments) and the French government. SOPEXA's total 1995 budget for promotion in the domestic and international markets was FF 610 million (about $122 million), including FF220.8 million ($44.2 million) for international promotion and French government contributions of FF176.5 million ($35.4 million), mainly for export promotion. The French government contributions also cover administrative and operating expenses for SOPEXA's offices.
SOPEXA represents first and foremost a worldwide network with offices in 23 countries. Over 70 percent of SOPEXA's international promotion funds are targeted to EU countries, including 25 percent for Germany and 20 percent for the United Kingdom. (This percentage mirrors the percentage of French processed food exports to other EU countries. Other major markets are the United States (9 percent) and Japan and other Asian countries (11 percent). (SOPEXA is one of the few European promotion agencies to promote actively in Asia, including China.) SOPEXA also maintains a delegation to the European Commission. Promotional activities are targeted at a wide variety of agricultural products. The major products promoted in export markets in 1995 were fruits, wines and cheeses.
The bulk of SOPEXA's 1995 promotions in the United States focused on wine and spirits, including the launching of a new campaign called "The Oui Hour." SOPEXA also conducted a smaller number of promotions for dairy products, fruits, vegetables, biscuits and confectionery products. SOPEXA also participated in three large U.S. trade shows.
SOPEXA initiated promotions for meat in Portugal and dairy products in Italy and Russia. SOPEXA's budget for Central Europe and Russia targets dairy products and apples (Russia), instore promotions of French cheeses in Poland and participation in Hungarian trade shows.
In Southeast Asia, SOPEXA distributes consumer information on French dairy products. Promotion of cookies, chocolate and other confectionery products also are conducted in Japan. SOPEXA, in conjunction with the French Prune Board, conducts promotions in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain.
SOPEXA continues its large promotions of wine throughout the world. Some campaigns suffered in 1995 and 1996 due to boycotts of French wines by countries protesting French nuclear testing.
CFCE is a quasi-governmental organization established in 1943, with a mandate to increase French exports of industrial and agricultural products by providing statistical information, market studies, and consulting services to French exporters. Within the CFCE, the Office of Food and Agricultural Products (DPA) is responsible for the expansion of agricultural exports. Markets targeted by CFCE in order of priority are: EU countries; OECD countries (non EU-Europe, the United States, and Japan in particular); and Southeast Asia. While CFCE contributes to France's agricultural export promotion efforts, its funding is not included in Table 1 of this report because its activities are more akin to the statistical activities carried out in government agencies in other countries.
COFACE, France's export credit insurance agency, offers credit guarantees to exporters for market research and promotion, including participation in trade fairs in countries outside the EU. COFACE became a private company in 1994, but may continue to provide government-assisted financing to riskier agricultural markets. COFACE's costs of extending credit are not included in Table 1.
Other French government programs provide assistance to the French food industry and indirectly to exports, but are not included as export promotion assistance. The French Ministry of Agriculture annually supports special market studies, new agribusiness development, consumer food/health studies, and industry research and development, including the development of new food products which indirectly aid exports. The French Ministry of Agriculture also funds agricultural product promotions and certification policies by financing the INAO (French Office for Appellation of Origin). Expenditures for these specific activities are not available.