French Farmers Clog Cities To Protest Falling Prices
Hundreds of French farmers descended on Paris by tractor Wednesday to protest the struggles of the farming community and put pressure on supermarket chains to pay them more for their produce.
Some 340 kilometres (210 miles) of tailbacks were reported during rush hour in Paris as convoys of tractors snarled traffic along the main roads into the capital.
Tractors also blocked traffic in Lyon and other cities.
In Paris, around 200 farmers blocked the Champs-Elysees avenue and dumped hay outside Fouquet’s restaurant, a hangout of the rich and famous, which was sacked earlier in the year by “yellow vest” protesters.
“We demand to see the president. We will stay as long as is necessary,” Cyril Milard, a member of the FDSEA farmers’ union told the rally.
Some had signs reading “Macron, answer us!” attached to the front of their tractors.
French farmers have for years been complaining of difficulties making ends meet.
The number of suicides among farmers hit 605 in 2015, the most recent year of data available, after staying stable at around 150 a year from 2007 to 2011.
Mathieu Garnotel, a farmer with a 130-hectare property in the Marne region, told AFP one in three farmers in his community was running a loss or just breaking even.
He blamed falling farm prices and the scrapping of sugar quotas along with higher costs and anti-pollution taxes. “We are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
The protest comes as supermarket chains and food producers begin annual price negotiations.
A new law attempts to tilt the scales, which are heavily weighted in favour of big supermarket chains, back in the farmers’ favour by giving them more of a say in pricing.
But the farmers say they have yet to see the benefits.
They also complain of “agri-bashing” by animal rights activists and environmentalists, including the bans on synthetic pesticides implemented by dozens of small towns and villages.
Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume expressed solidarity with the farmers.
“I support the anger of the farmers and this demonstration. The belittlement has gone on too long,” he told Europe 1 radio.