France’s food sector is “a strategic industry” for the country’s economy, its agriculture minister claimed today (20 October) amid plans to change how the nation’s food is marketed abroad.

Food minister Bruno Le Maire flew into the SIAL food-industry exhibition this morning to make an unscheduled speech to the country’s food manufacturers’ association, the ANIA.

“Our food industry is a strategic industry for France,” Le Maire told delegates at ANIA’s rencontres économiques.

Facing stronger and more numerous competitors on the world’s export markets, notably Brazil and China, France needs to move from a fragmented identity to a unified branding like Italy, Le Maire said. The minister pledged to develop a unified national food export brand as a top priority.

To make French food production more competitive, the minister also made a number of other promises, including a commitment to permit the use of 44-tonne lorries by the food industry, after president Nicolas Sarkozy made the same concession to agricultural businesses.

Le Maire also promised to break the beef export logjam with Russia, following Sarkozy’s earlier letter to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. The French President wrote to his counterpart in Moscow to claim Russian rules on livestock were hitting France’s farmers.