For days, nationwide protests have flared in Europe’s largest agriculture producer, with farmers angered in part by red tape and environmental policies they say are hurting their bottom lines and rendering them unable to compete with less stringent neighbours.
Across France, farmers have used tractors and trucks to block roads and jam traffic. They plan to step up their pressure campaign by establishing eight chokepoints along the major arteries to Paris on Monday afternoon.
“We need answers,” said Karine Duc, a farmer in the southwestern Lot-et-Garonne department as she joined a convoy of tractors heading for Paris.
“This is the final battle for farming. It’s a question of survival,” she told AFP.
A banner on a tractor in the convoy said: “We will not die in silence.”
The government has mobilised 15,000 police and paramilitary gendarmes in response, with the forces told to show “moderation”.
“We don’t intend to allow government buildings, or tax collection buildings, or grocery stores to be damaged or trucks transporting foreign produce to be stopped. Obviously, that is unacceptable,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said ahead of the planned siege.
He said President Emmanuel Macron had instructed the security operation to ensure both Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport to the north and Orly to the south remain open, and the Rungis international wholesale food market south of Paris continues to operate.
Police and gendarmes are also under orders to prevent any incursion into Paris itself, said Darmanin.
The government has been trying to keep discontent among farmers from spreading ahead of European Parliament elections later this year, which are being seen as a key test for Macron’s government.
During a visit to a farm on Sunday, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal scrambled to address farmers’ concerns, after a raft of concessions announced Friday failed to defuse the crisis.
“I want us to clarify things and see what extra measures we can take” to meet farmers’ complaints that they face unfair competition, he said.
Attal agreed it was not right that French farmers were forbidden by environmental regulations from using certain products that neighbouring countries, such as Italy, still had the right to use.
Farmers have described being “fed-up” with their conditions, including falling wages, low pensions and mountains of red tape.
Source : france24