Francization of French kiwis: 4th meaningful conviction

Source: Fresh Plaza

The verdict of the 4th trial on the francization of kiwis has been handed down by the Correctional Court of Montauban [1]. The BIK, Rural Coordination, Farmers Confederation, FNPF, Gefel and Interfel, have all joined as civil parties in this case. The verdict pronounced is heavy, reflecting the significance of the acts committed. 

The francization of kiwis allows fraudsters to modify the value of French kiwis by selling under a false French origin. The results of the study by DGCCRF published in March 2019 had revealed such practices by some operators, shedding light on this topic of general interest. The damage caused to French producers is significant and the goal of the civil parties is to put an end to such practices, in accordance with the missions defined in their purpose.

Francization which has a significant impact on French kiwis…
This case represents the largest fraud in the francization of kiwis identified by the DGCCRF study, which estimates that 2,991,625 kg of kiwis were purchased and francized by the defendant, Mr. Hecht, between January 2015 and December 2017. According to BIK estimates, the kiwis were purchased at a price 39% below the value of the French kiwi on average and then sold at a price 34% below their value to an almost unique client (according to RNM price quotations at the time of shipping on the wholesale markets of southwestern France).

[1] An initial judgment was rendered in November 2019 by the Correctional Court of Valence, convicting two companies, and a second judgment in June 2020 by the Correctional Court of Privas.

… deceiving consumers and harming producers
With its judgment, the Correctional Court recognizes that the acts committed are serious, especially given the volume of the fraud (a minimum of 3,000 tons over two and a half years), the damage to the kiwi market (loss of consumer trust regarding the origins indicated on products) and the damage to French kiwi producers (unfair competition, significant financial loss due to the drop in French kiwi prices, discouragement of producers who invested less in their farms).

Because the origin of fresh fruit and vegetables is a determining factor for purchase among French consumers, such fraud discredits the authenticity and value of the French origin of kiwis. It undermines the actions carried out by the BIK and other civil parties for several years to promote French kiwis among consumers. 

This causes damage for producers who are twice robbed of the fair fruit of their efforts. First, if the disappointed consumer turns away from French kiwis, which are the result of a year of hard work and long-term commitment (a kiwi orchard can produce for over 20 years). And also financially, as these francization practices result in lower kiwi prices and lower remuneration for producers. Since the DGCCRF study and its dissuasive impact on the actors of the sector, the price paid to the producers has increased by over 60%. The BIK estimates that the loss for producers due to these fraudulent francization practices could represent over 88 million euros [105.8 million USD] for the three harvests concerned in the study, which represents 1,265 ha of kiwi orchards that could have been planted.

Exemplary judgment

The verdict matches the severity of the acts committed:

– a suspended six-month sentence

– a 50,000 € [60,115 USD] fine

It is the first time in a case of kiwi francization that a suspended prison sentence has been pronounced.

With these significant and hopefully dissuasive penalties, the French justice indicates once again that such practices are unacceptable. Our organizations are fully committed to fight francization and will remain mobilized until they are fully eradicated.

For more information:
BIK (Kiwi Interprofessional Office)
Adeline Gachein  

Coordination Rurale 
Marion Vignier  

Confédération Paysanne (Farmers Confederation)
Nicolas Girod

FNPF (French Fruit Producers Federation)
Stéphanie Prat  

GEFeL (Fruit and Vegetable Economic Governance) 
Paul Faburel  

Interfel (Fruit and Vegetable Interprofessional Association)
Victoire Genest