France’s leading food industry body, ANIA, has warned of a further 5,000 job losses over the next few months, the sector having shed almost 4,000 in 2012.

Its president, Jean-René Buisson, said the industry was undergoing a grave crisis of confidence with firms suffering a deterioration “without precedent” in margins.

One factor was “the systematic refusal” on the part of retailers to pay more for goods to a backdrop of hikes in food commodity prices while the industry was also having to cope with a decline in food consumption, resulting from flagging consumer purchasing power.

Hardest hit are likely to be industrial firms operating in the cold meats, deli and bakery and cake-making sectors, Buisson said, adding that it was “a matter of urgency” to bring to an end the drive to push prices ever lower.

“The only possible solution now is to restablish the notion of the fair price, encourage research and innovation, preserve jobs in our businesses and re-position consumers at the centre of the equation,” Buisson said.