Market News & Headlines >> Strikes Take Toll on French Grains Sector

A French grain industry association on Monday condemned ongoing strikes over pension reform that have disrupted rail services and port activities in France since December, warning of a severe impact on the grain sector if they continue. 

Intercereales, a group encompassing French grain producers, exporters and processors said in a letter sent to the government that the situation was now dramatic for grain exports. 

"The grain industry cannot go without train freight which is particularly adapted to massive grain transport, nor without ports to export nearly 50% of its production," Intercereales said in a letter dated on Monday seen by Reuters News Service."The strikes... are paralysing the marketing campaign that was expected to be better than in previous years," it said. 

The lobby group warned that international clients were now turning to alternative origins, including northern Europe, Baltic countries and the Black Sea. 

Intercereales said 450,000 metric tons of grain worth some 100 million euros ($111 million) were blocked in French ports and sellers have been forced to pay out 4-6 euros per metric ton more in transport costs with railways shut down. 

The transportation situation seemed to be easing with some major labor unions ending their strike actions and participation in rail strikes waning following government concessions on pension reform earlier this month. However, protests from hard-line labor unions persist and now workers at major grain terminals are set to stage a 72-hour walkout starting Wednesday.