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Updated January 24th, 2024 at 22:42 IST

‘Angry’ French Farmers Block Roads, Step Up Pressure on Government as Protests Flare

Infuriated farmers are protesting against price pressures, taxes and green regulation—woes that they say are shared across farming communities in EU.

Reported by: Zaini Majeed
France Farmers Protest Macron EU regulations
French farmers’ union Rural Coordination called for a demonstration against regulations. | Image:AP
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Angry farmers in France threatened to expand the protests to Brussels on Wednesday as they demonstrated to step up the pressure on the French government of President Emmanuel Macron, demanding reform to the low wages and the excessive bureaucracy. Farmers are appealing for a ‘special law’ to be drafted by the French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Farming Minister Marc Fesneau to stabilise their revenue.

Infuriated farmers are protesting the price pressures, taxes and green regulation grievances—woes that they say are shared across farming communities in all of Europe. Grieved farmers drove their tractors across the major cities in France, as the protests flared to neighbouring Poland over the “unfair” competition from Ukraine. As demonstrations turned intense, a farmer and her daughter were killed after a car crashed into a protest barricade in the southwest of France.

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Farmers in France block the roads during a demonstration on Wednesday. (AP)

The French farmers’ union Rural Coordination in European Union’s headquarter state Brussels, demanded immediate reforms to the  “ever-increasing constraints of European regulations and ever-lower incomes,” according to Associated Press. France receives an estimated 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) a year in subsidies in accordance with the Common Agricultural Policy, [CAP], the largest share in any EU member state.

Farmers have blocked the highway near Beauvais, northern France. (AP)

Farmers in France ‘fed-up’

French farmers' representatives in Paris are feeling “fed-up.” "I think that at this moment, as long as I don't have the answers, I'd have a hard time explaining to them that they need to leave (the protests)," Arnaud Gaillot, the head of the Young Farmers (Jeunes Agriculteurs) union told France 2 television. Farmers have blocked roads for days since last week as similar demonstration are spreading like fire in the neighbouring Germany, the French broadcaster reports.

Some of the issues that they complain about are government tax on tractor fuel, price pressures from retailers, cheap imports, water storage issues and red tape. The French farm union FNSEA is threatening protests across entire France in the coming weeks. Arnaud Rousseau, head of FNSEA, told France Inter radio that for at least “whole week and as long as necessary, a certain number of actions will be organised.” The demonstrations come ahead of the scheduled European Parliament elections in June and might spillover to other countries including Romania.

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Farmers are protesting against the excessive regulations, mounting costs among other issues. (AP)

Addressing the issue, in an effort to calm tensions, the French government has withdrawn a draft farming law planned for debate this week but other woes such as rising taxes, and environmental regulations persist.

CAP contributes to the EU’s Green Deal’s objectives, carbon neutrality using tactics such as the farm diversification, preservation of permanent grasslands, plant protein production, agroecology, and organic farming. The Commission approved France’s CAP Strategic Plan on August 31, 2022.

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In a sign that the protest movement was expanding in France, and other EU nations. (AP)
Polish farmers are slow driving tractors as they join the protests against the government. (AP)

“Today, when we see that all the farmers in France are gathering near roundabouts, blocking highways, putting tarpaulins on speed cameras: it shows they are fed up. It’s a revolt,” Veronique Le Floc’h, the president of Rural Coordination, told Associated Press agency. A movement has commenced with farmers from all backgrounds joining in  “because the fight is the same. The money is no longer there,” she added.

Farmers protesting against low wages and excessive bureaucracy. (AP)

France’s major farmers union FNSEA plans to release its own set of 40 regulations as the goal behind the widespread demonstration, they say, is “get quick results.”

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Published January 24th, 2024 at 22:33 IST

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