French farmers block major roads in protest over low pay

Autumn work in the fields

France’s farmers continued their nationwide protest campaign on Friday, expressing their frustration over falling income, cheap imports, fuel taxes, and EU environmental rules, all of which, they say, are jeopardizing their livelihoods.

According to the highway operator Vinci Autoroutes, demonstrators used tractors and other vehicles to obstruct traffic on a number of major roads. Local media wrote that in some places farmers dumped straw, tyres, and manure in front of government buildings.

The National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA), which has been coordinating the escalating protests, has accused the government of not doing enough to support the agricultural sector. France 24 reported that on Wednesday the FNSEA presented a list of 140 demands to the authorities.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal is due to address the turmoil later on Friday – and is expected to set out a series of emergency measures designed to assuage farmers’ anger. The FNSEA has said that if the government’s response is inadequate, the protests will continue.

The country’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, who for months has been putting pressure on big supermarkets to lower their prices following a period of high inflation, has pledged to ensure that farmers are getting a fair price for their produce.

However, according to France 24, in order to accede to some of the FNSEA’s demands, the French government would have to pass new legislation or, in some cases, enter into negotiations with the EU.

The protests follow similar demonstrations in other European countries – such as Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands – where farmers have all said that they are struggling to survive, in part due to the EU’s net-zero initiatives, and have demanded greater financial support.

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