France's food processing industry sales fell by almost 8% in 2009, bringing to an abrupt end a long period of annual growth of about 5%.

The fall in sales to EUR139bn (US$169.5bn) was largely due a decrease of 7.4% in factory-gate prices, itself a consequence of a decline in primary goods prices, figures from trade body ANIA suggested.

Production volumes were up by almost 1%, reflecting a stability in household consumption, ANIA said.

Among the segments hardest-hit were dairy, which saw sales fall 11.4%, followed by meat preparations - down 4.2% - and tinned fish products, which dropped 3.6%.

The decline in sales also reflected the trend of own label gaining ground to the detriment of national brands.  

Having kept a low profile in 2009, food company chiefs fear that 2010 may be even more difficult, with any real recovery not kicking in before 2011, ANIA president Jean-René Buisson said.