News

France offers cash and support to placate farmers protesting against fuel duty hike

By AFP

February 1, 2024 07:53 PM


France's government offered a slew of new concessions Thursday to farmers to calm anger behind tractor blockades of major roads nationwide.

Farmers have been out in force for more than a week in protests triggered by an agricultural fuel duty hike, complaining their pay is squeezed, taxes are too high and regulations too onerous.

The leading farming unions called to end the protest after securing promises from the government.  "We have decided to suspend the roadblocks... and move to a new form of mobilisation," Young Farmers (JA) president Arnaud Gaillot said at a press conference alongside Arnaud Rousseau, chief of the biggest rural union FNSEA which is closely allied to the JA.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said he wanted to "better recognise the farming profession", "protect (farmers) against unfair competition" and "give value back to our food". 

He offered up measures including an annual 150 million euros ($162 million) for livestock farmers and a ban on food imports treated with thiacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide already banned in France.

He also vowed to ensure a clear Europe-wide definition of lab-grown meat, a technology still in its infancy -- anticipating similar agricultural resistance to the product as has met plant-based milk and meat substitutes.

All major supermarkets will be audited for compliance with a law supposed to ensure fair prices for farmers' produce, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire added at the same Paris press conference.

And there will be a "pause" in France's national plan for reducing pesticide use, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said.  The "Ecophyto" plan "will be put back on the drawing board... for as long as it takes to re-work some of these aspects, to simplify it," Fesneau added.

France's major FNSEA farming union said it would respond to the announcements on Thursday afternoon. Thursday's offer to the farmers follows a first round of concessions last week, including the withdrawal of the resented fuel tax hike.

It also comes as European leaders gather in Brussels for a summit overshadowed by farmers' protests that have spread to multiple countries in recent weeks. In a sign of the pressure on Paris, Macron scheduled one-on-one talks with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to discuss "the future of European agriculture" before the summit.

The European Union has in recent days announced a temporary exemption from rules requiring some farmland to be left fallow. The bloc could also limit imports of some Ukrainian agricultural products, on which tariffs were dropped following Russia's 2022 invasion.

France's government hailed the moves as a victory for its lobbying, but they have not been enough to soothe the farmers' grievances. Many have demanded a full withdrawal from a long-negotiated free-trade deal with South American bloc Mercosur.

Paris has said it will not accept the agreement in its current form, although some other EU nations are determined to press ahead. There were tense scenes at some farmers' roadblocks in France Thursday, as demonstrators demanded passing truck drivers open up their cargoes for them to check the origin of produce.

Protests -- whether roadblocks, lane closures or demonstrations -- continued at more than 150 locations around France Thursday, with motorways around major cities including Paris and Lyon affected.

Calm had however returned to the vast Rungis wholesale food market that serves the 12 million people in the Paris capital region. A group of 79 farmers were released after being held in custody for a Wednesday incursion into the food hub, with prosecutors saying they will investigate for property damage.

France's second-largest farmers' union Coordination Rurale (CR) suggested members gather at the National Assembly parliament building in response to the arrests.

"Given that a lot of farmers want to come to Paris, we're telling them... go to the National Assembly, so that all the MPs and senators can come and meet the farmers," CR's president Veronique Le Floch told RMC radio. Hundreds of Portuguese farmers were also blocking roads Thursday, including two border crossings to Spain.

 


AFP


Most Read

  1. Farmers can apply for Bardana through App from Saturday as Punjab starts wheat procurement campaign Farmers can apply for Bardana through App from Saturday as Punjab starts wheat procurement campaign
  2. Adil Raja loses pleas to dismiss Naseer’s defamation suits Adil Raja loses pleas to dismiss Naseer’s defamation suits
  3. Punjab students asked to get registered for getting petrol, e-bikes Punjab students asked to get registered for getting petrol, e-bikes
  4. Star woman cricketer Aliya Riaz ties the knot with Ali Younis in intimate Nikkah Ceremony Star woman cricketer Aliya Riaz ties the knot with Ali Younis in intimate Nikkah Ceremony
  5. ASF official who misbehaved with girl at Karachi airport likely to face music ASF official who misbehaved with girl at Karachi airport likely to face music
  6. Amir Tanba, linked to Indian spy Sarabjit Singh's jail killing, killed in Lahore Amir Tanba, linked to Indian spy Sarabjit Singh's jail killing, killed in Lahore

Opinion

  1. Insights into the Pakistan Stock Exchange's Recent Record High Triumph
    Insights into the Pakistan Stock Exchange's Recent Record High Triumph

    By Zulfiqar Ali Mir

  2. IMEC to sabotage CPEC
    IMEC to sabotage CPEC

    By Dr Asif Channer

  3. 1947 TO FORM 47
    1947 TO FORM 47

    By Dr Asif Channer

  4. Beijing wants to further highlight industrial sector in its country and take scientific innovation to new heights....
    Beijing wants to further highlight industrial sector in its country and take scientific innovation to new heights....

    By Ali Ramay

  5. Global race: China will reduce its unnecessary expenses
    Global race: China will reduce its unnecessary expenses

    By Ali Ramay

  6. Channer Pir: The Great Saint of Cholistan
    Channer Pir: The Great Saint of Cholistan

    By Dr Asif Channer