French farmers take tractors back on the streets of Paris in new protest

23 February 2024, 18:54

Farmers drive their tractors in Paris
France Farmers Protests. Picture: PA

The farmers are part of a broader protest movement in Europe against EU agriculture policies, bureaucracy and overall business conditions.

Angry farmers have headed back to Paris on their tractors in a new protest demanding more government support and simpler regulations, on the eve of a major agricultural fair in the French capital.

Dozens of tractors drove peacefully into Paris carrying flags from Rural Co-ordination, the farmers’ union that staged the protest.

The protesters then posed with their tractors on a bridge over the River Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background, before heading towards the Vauban plaza in central Paris, where they all gathered for the demonstration.

The latest protest comes three weeks after farmers lifted roadblocks around Paris and elsewhere in the country after the government offered more than 400 million euros to address their grievances over low earnings, heavy regulation and what they describe as unfair competition from abroad.

Protest by French farmers
Farmers are demanding more government support and simpler regulations (Thomas Padilla/AP)

“Save our agriculture,” the Rural Co-ordination said on X, formerly Twitter. One tractor was carrying a poster reading: “Death is in the field.”

The convoy temporarily slowed traffic on the A4 motorway, east of the capital, and on the Paris ring-road earlier on Friday morning.

French farmers’ actions are part of a broader protest movement in Europe against EU agriculture policies, bureaucracy and overall business conditions.

Farmers complain that the 27-nation bloc’s environmental policies, such as the Green Deal, which calls for limits on the use of chemicals and on greenhouse gas emissions, limit their business and make their products more expensive than non-EU imports.

Other protests are being staged across France as farmers seek to put pressure on the government to implement its promises.

Government officials have held a series of meetings with farmers’ unions in recent weeks to discuss a new bill meant to defend France’s “agricultural sovereignty”, and which will be debated in parliament this spring.

Tractors parked on a square in Paris
The latest protest comes three weeks after farmers lifted roadblocks around Paris (Thomas Padilla/AP)

The government’s plan also includes hundreds of millions of euros in aid, tax breaks and a promise not to ban pesticides in France that are allowed elsewhere in Europe. French farmers say such bans put them at an unfair disadvantage.

Cyril Hoffman, a cereal producer in the Burgundy region and a member of the Rural Co-ordination, said farmers now want the government to “take action”.

He said his union is advocating for exempting the farming industry from free trade agreements.

“They can make free trade agreements but agriculture should not be part of them, so we can remain sovereign regarding our food,” Mr Hoffman said. “Only in France do we let our farming disappear.”

French President Emmanuel Macron planned to visit the Paris Agricultural Fair on Saturday, though his office appeared to have removed from his agenda a previously scheduled “big debate” with farmers and members of environmental groups at the event.

The president will meet with farmers’ unions before the fair’s opening, his office said on Friday.

Yet France’s major farmers’ union, the FNSEA, said its board decided not to participate in the debate because “conditions for a peaceful dialogue are not met”. The FNSEA staged another protest in Paris, near the site of the fair, on Friday afternoon.

The Paris Agricultural Fair is one of the world’s largest farm fairs, drawing crowds every year.

By Press Association

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