The French wholesale markets’ federation recently published 2003 financial statistics for the sector and the good news is they are positive.

The 18 national wholesale markets generated more than e12 billion turnover last year, which was a four per cent increase on 2002. More tellingly perhaps, compared with the figures for 1999, more than e2bn of extra income has been raked in.

This data relates to food overall, but fresh produce contributed heavily to the results, especially on the volume side: accounting for 3.5 million tonnes out of a total 4.7mt.

Rungis still holds first place in the rankings, thanks to the strong Parisian consumer market, but other regional centres deserve praise. Bordeaux for instance registered the highest turnover, Marseille the highest volume.

Looking squarely into the future, the best news is that e71m has been invested in the infrastructure at French wholesale markets - surely a sign of their continuing vitality. The works in progress in Grenoble, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux might be seen as the first step toward an even deeper, long-term transformation.

However, the markets are awaiting the decree that will bring in new regulations for their management. Once passed, it will change the face of wholesale activity in France dramatically.

The 2003 figures are exceptional and result from sound financial management and an increase in trade. They send a strong signal to anyone still doubting the viability of the markets’ very existence.