Thursday

20th Sep 2018

French farmers blockade Paris in demand for aid

  • More than 1,000 tractors headed to Paris for a giant demonstration. (Photo: FNSEA)

Six columns of 1,038 tractors and 49 buses approached Paris on Thursday morning (3 September) to take part in a massive demonstration by farmers petitioning the French government and the EU for aid.


Farmers planned to block access to the French capital before demonstrating in the city. Delegations representing the farmers will hold a meeting at the National Assembly and will later meet with prime minister Manuel Valls.

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The farmers are demanding emergency measures for crisis-hit sectors such as milk production and beef and pork farming, as well as a structural plan to guarantee French agricultural competitiveness.

The French government announced on 22 July a €600 million plan to support farmers, but the FNSEA, France's main farmers' union, is demanding a €3 billion plan over three years to modernise the sector and support the construction of bigger farms by grouping together smaller farms.

The union is also demanding a freeze on environmental laws which it says hinder their development.

The farmers are also demanding the government's support in making large retailers pay higher prices for their products.

"We are going through a very significant farming crisis," agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll told Le Parisien newspaper on Tuesday.

"About 10 percent of breeding farms, that is between 22,000 and 25,000 farms, are on the brink of liquidation," he added. At least 40,000 direct jobs are threatened, according to Le Parisien.

Less competitive

French farming, which was at the vanguard of European farming for many years, has been hit by the Russian embargo on EU products as well as by the end of milk quotas on 1 April, which drove prices down, combined with lower demand from China.

Although it remains the main recipient of European subsidies, French farming is also weakened by ageing equipment and labour costs.

France is now less competitive than Germany, where farms are bigger and more modern and which use a cheaper labour force from eastern Europe.

An extraordinary meeting of EU agriculture ministers will take place on Monday (7 September) at France's request.

France, along with Italy, Portugal and Spain, will propose a rise in intervention prices - the price at which states can buy products to support the market - on powdered skinned milk and cheese, as well as an increase of aid to producers in 2016, which would be paid from October.

On 26 August, EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan told reporters he was "hopeful we will be able to make some announcements on 7 September”.

But he also said that milk prices were "reasonable" and pointed out that French farmers were not the only ones going through difficulties.

A demonstration is also planned in Brussels on 7 September when ministers meet.

About 1,000 and 5,000 farmers are expected to participate at the demonstration organised by the European Milk Board and the Copa-Cogeca European farmers' union.

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