Correspondent in Paris
In France (67 million inhabitants) a farmer commits suicide every day. The pandemic has exacerbated this historical tragedy of immense significance. The first unofficial suicide figures, for the first ten months this year, confirm the severity of the crisis. Between 2015 and 2019, an average of 370 farmers committed suicide per year in France. 292 owned a farm and some 278 were wage earners. About 270 were names and about 100 were women. It is feared that 2020 will end with figures that could amount to 375 even 400 suicides.
The Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA, Mutua social agricole), responsible for the social security of French farmers, He has again asked President Emmanuel Macron for help, estimating that the pandemic has accelerated that national tragedy.
The MSA, the Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles (FNSEA, the first French agricultural union) and Solidarité Paysans (SP, association to support farmers with problems of all kinds), have noted a spectacular increase in calls for help urgent, which are due to many overlapping problems:
-Increased loneliness and isolation.
-Deterioration of family economies.
-Appearance of “pathologies” linked to uncertainty, personal, family and collective.
Bernard Lannes, president of the Coordination Rurale (CR) union, comments on the ongoing process in this way: “There is a lot of talk about the anguish of many social sectors. But that anguish, uncertainty and loneliness has increased among farmers, who they feel abandoned, in many cases. The pandemic and the collapse of the markets have exacerbated a well-known problem that has a very dramatic history.
The worsening of the problem of suicide of French farmers coincides with the great demographic metamorphosis of national agriculture. In 1955, 6.2 million French were farmers. In 1982 there were only 1.6 million farmers left. According to official statistics, in 2000 there were 764,000 farm owners. Figure that was descending to 605,000 (2010) and 564,000 (2016), to continue reducing to 400,000 in 2019.
The pandemic has turned 2020 into a black year for French agriculture. The economic disaster has a human face: it is feared that the year ends with 370 to 400 suicides.
Agricultural unions, mutual support associations, deputies from regions deeply affected by the crisis, expect some form of response from Emmanuel Macron. Some associations have started by paying for consultation sessions with psychiatrists and psychologists for farmers who agree to undergo such medical therapy, perhaps insufficient to address the collective tragedy.