The French economy has undergone profound changes, especially since the end of the 1950s: by transforming and modernizing its structures, France has placed itself among the European countries with the highest income. The demographic revival, the high abandonment of the countryside, the growing urbanization, the inclusion in the EEC, have contributed to changing the face of the production system. Despite having a complex and balanced economic structure, due to the presence of good natural resources and high-level agricultural and industrial systems, the country found itself having to face the global and internal uncertainties and perturbations, which do not have any. rarely slowed down the development process. The consequences of a multiplicity of unfavorable events (reduction of production due to the strikes of May 1968, a sharp rise in wages and prices, a high deficit in the balance of payments, a noticeable decline in monetary reserves) led the French government to devalue its currency (August 1969). In the seventies the French economy marked a positive progress, higher than that of other European countries, which allows it to claim the role of leader among the “second degree” powers in the world. The many problems that France has to face, common to the most advanced industrial companies, are included in the various development plans, which from the mid-1950s (up to the sixth plan of 1971-75) provide for the balance and restructuring of the territory in connection with the progress of the economic and social system. The project of the aforementioned “metropolis of equilibrium”, connected to a series of cities with support functions, intended to respond to these assumptions. These development poles are located in Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing, Thionville-Metz-Nancy, Strasbourg, Saint-Etienne-Lyon-Grenoble, Aix-en-Provence-Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes – Saint-Nazaire. As centers of tertiary activities, with support functions, Dijon, Mulhouse, Besançon, Montpellier, Nice, Limoges, Clermont-Ferrand, Rennes, Brest and Caen. At the same time, the economic redemption of the regions with an ancient rural organization was addressed, orienting the primary sector according to the demand for products on the part of domestic and foreign markets.
The economic situation today presents a solid state budget, with considerable foreign exchange reserves, only a small part affected by the recent monetary crises due to the global energy problem and the decline in the dollar. Statistically, the degree of economic development is given by the national income per capita, which is almost 3200 US dollars, that is, very close to that of the Federal Republic of Germany and just under two thirds of that of the USA. The demographic increase of the last thirty years has led to an increase in the active population, which exceeds 26.6 million people (1970), of which only 10% (20.8% in 1962) is employed in agriculture. Industry is directed by 42%, while the service sector absorbs 23.4% of the active population; employees in commerce, banks and insurance companies are just over 16%.
Agriculture. – The recent economic transformations have affected the agricultural sector with structural and technical modifications.
According to prozipcodes, the intention was to increase the productivity of agriculture, which today represents only 6% of the gross national product, to contain the rural exodus, especially of young people, which has been very strong in recent decades. From the last agricultural census (1970) it is noted that the number of farms decreases by 2.5% per year, and the average farm area is continuously increasing according to the land consolidation program. Almost 60% of arable land is, in fact, occupied by properties ranging between 10 and 50 ha, while 24% is assigned to large properties (over 50 ha) and 16% to small properties (less than 10 ha). Two thirds of the farms, which extend over half of the land, belong to direct farmers; the other companies are generally rented, while sharecropping is in danger of extinction. French agriculture still occupies an important position today, also in the context of the economic integration of the EEC, due to the fact that it takes place on a very favorable agricultural territory, with a high diffusion of fertilizers and a considerable participation of mechanical means (1.2 million tractors) to working conditions: the increase in agricultural production in the last fifteen years can be calculated at around 7% per year, despite the sharp reduction in the cultivated area (from 21.5 million ha in 1960 to 17 million ha today). There are, however, factors of a human nature that slow down agricultural development: firstly it is the age of the farmers, 50% of whom are over 55 years old.
In the field of crops, there is progress in horticultural crops, fruit trees and flowers, while the area occupied by cereals and vines is decreasing. For many products, France holds the primacy in Europe (excluding the USSR) or is in the very first places. There are still areas used by some specific crops (the Midi viticulture and fruit, the North cereal), but a large part of the surface is currently destined for grazing (meadows and pastures occupy 25.5% of the French territory) and for forage crops destined for the breeding of livestock, cattle in particular. The production of wines (from 50 to 65 million hl annually) alternates in first place in the world with that of Italy; but if quality wines are easy to trade, common wines encounter various difficulties on foreign markets. For this reason, the importation of wines from Algeria was restricted and the application of Community regulations was delayed to contain foreign competition (“wine war” with Italy in 1975). The France is always in first place in Europe for the production of wheat (an annual average of 150-160 million q) and barley (80-90 million q), while oats are in decline (20-25 million q) to the advantage of maize (80-90 million q), which is widely used for feeding livestock. The production of potatoes is still high (80-90 million q), but in sharp decline compared to fifteen years ago; beet is particularly widespread, the most important industrial crop in the country and in first place in Europe (180-200 million q), destined for the sugar industry, while the by-products go to breeding. The cultivation of rice has long been sufficient for internal consumption; that of flax continues to be among the highest in Europe with 650-700,000 quintals. Vegetables, which are increasing,
The evolution of dietary regimes has led to a growing demand for livestock products, so much so that 71.5% of French agricultural income today (64.5% in 1961) comes from the sale of animal products (particularly meat). and for 28.5% (35.5% in 1961) from those of plant products.
Cattle herds (22.8 million head but 19.5 million in 1961) are in second place in Europe, after the USSR. Also noteworthy is the progress in the breeding of poultry and pigs, which tend to be concentrated in specialized industrial companies; sheep farming is also on the rise. Conversely, the decline of equine and goat herds must be recorded: the first due to the mechanization of the agricultural sector and the other following the reduction in demand for the related products.