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Economic & Financial Links


France's fuel resources are inadequate. The country has to import about three-quarters of the fuel, mainly petroleum, needed to meet its requirements. However, production of electrical energy is significant, with nuclear energy representing about 75% of the total. France is the world's second-largest supplier of nuclear power (after the United States). Hydroelectric plants operate on the Isère, Durance, Rhine, Rhône, and Dordogne rivers. A tidal power plant is located on the Rance River in Brittany.

Agriculture and Fishing

France is the leading agricultural nation of Western Europe, and about 7% of the labor force are engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Three-fifths of the land area is used for agriculture; about one-third is cultivated; one-quarter is used as meadow and pasture. Since the end of World War II, agricultural policy has been directed toward modernization of agriculture, including mechanization of farms, raising productivity per hectare, and consolidating numerous small holdings into larger, more efficient farms.


Although the agricultural sector employs only a small percentage of the workforce, it exercises a considerable amount of political influence. French farmers have traditionally been dependent on government subsidies, and demands by EU trading partners that these subsidies be reduced met with strong resistance from France in the early 1990s. A compromise was eventually reached, which cleared the way for the signing of the "Uruguay Round" trade pact in 1994.

Livestock raising is an important source of farm income. Cattle are raised mainly in the north and west; sheep and goats are raised primarily in the drier, more mountainous south and east, and pigs and chickens are raised throughout the country. France is a leading European producer of beef, veal, poultry, and dairy products.

Cereals and sugar beets are the most important crops. Wheat is widely grown in the Paris Basin; other grains grown are barley, corn, and oats, which, with sugar beet factory residues, are used primarily for livestock feed; some rice is grown under irrigation in the Rhône delta. Wine is a major crop throughout the country, both the vin ordinaire, or everyday wine, of the region and the appellation contrôlée, or quality-controlled, wines of such regions as Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux, and Alsace. In recent years the government has tried to discourage overproduction of wine. Flowers are grown for perfume at Grasse, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are raised in the warm Mediterranean region for shipment to northern and central Europe.

Fishing is locally important in the coastal areas of Normandy and Brittany, the southern Atlantic coast, and the Mediterranean. Concarnea, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Lorient, and La Rochelle are leading fishing ports.

Trade and Tourism

France is one of the leading exporters and importers on the foreign trade market. The two principal ports are Marseille and its annexes on the Mediterranean, and Le Havre at the mouth of the Seine on the English Channel. Most trade is conducted with other members of the European Union. France is a major world tourist destination.

Go to Part 3 (Economic & Financial Links)

Daniel Noin, Professor, University of Paris, Paris. Reviewed by Anne Depigny, General Manager, Europe Magazine; and Agnes Jolivet, Freelance Editor and Translator.
Source: 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia v14.0.0, ©2001, Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT.


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