I’m always taken aback by the truly lovely food you can find anywhere in France. It is just routine, part of the fabric and goes right across all forms of food – like the stunning ham sandwich I had earlier.
How much of this is down to the CAP, which is so aggressively defended by French farmers?
Well I suspect not much, as the same system produces fields of barley and oil-seed rape in Britain and Britain’s emerging farmers’ market movement hardly relies on CAP payments at all. But just suppose that support for French farmers truly did underpin French regional gastronomy, would it be acceptable? One might even consider a ‘cuisine’ (as opposed to food) to be a public good, like a language or a mythology – and worth preserving at a cost greater than that which its immediate users are prepared to pay. In my view, support for French farmers might be justified under two conditions: first that the support is provided by the French taxpayer or food consumer – not by transfers between EU member states. Second, that the support is as far as possible non-trade distorting so that other countries are not forced to follow or introduce barriers to trade. This is the key to CAP reform in my opinion – let each country decide if, why and how to support its farming industry but in a way that doesn’t require everyone else to do the same.