The French love their cheese, but with markets and cheesemongers closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, people in the country haven’t been buying as much traditional French cheeses as before. The slowdown has put the dairy industry in a tight spot. So much so that Terre de Lait, the dairy industry collective, is asking people to “eat cheese in solidarity” with the traditional cheesemakers of France.
In a press release, Terre de Lait announced a campaign for a national “fromagissons.” The phrasing comes from combining fromage (cheese) with agissons (“let’s act”). And who doesn’t want to stand up for cheese? The final stated objective: “to encourage the consumption of traditional cheeses.”
According to the release, the fromagissons movement will highlight traditional cheeses from regions like Saint-Nectaire, Camembert, and Reblochon to encourage consumers to purchase them “without making them feel guilty” about the state of the French cheese industry. Sales of certain iconic cheeses have fallen by as much as 60 percent since the closures of restaurants and shops. Which is why the release states that now is the time to “work together so that France remains that of 1,000 cheeses.”
France isn’t the only country where a national food is in dire times. In Belgium, a 750,000-ton surplus of potatoes led the government to ask people to eat more frites.
As far as ways to help out in France go, eating more cheese is far from the most difficult. The most impacted are Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cheeses. These can only be made by following certain regulations in restricted areas, and often have tight windows of freshness.
“The situation is critical and requires a rapid increase in consumption,” Damien Lacombe, the president of the dairy collective Sodiaal, told the French magazine Agri Culture. “Local cheeses, there are many producers, often located in difficult areas, and cheese factories which participate in the economic dynamics of many territories.”
In the same Agri Culture story, another dairy collective said that 2,000 tons of cheese was supposed to be sold in April, but only 500 tons left the shelves.
This is quite possibly one of the only times that purchasing cheese for an extravagant cheese plate is equivalent to doing a public service. Let’s answer the call for cheese and embrace the fromagissons movement.