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Hundreds of tractors en route to blockade Paris

Ben McPartland · 1 Sep 2015, 17:29

Published: 01 Sep 2015 17:29 GMT+02:00

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Beleaguered French farmers are set to continue their recent protests this week when they descend on Paris in protest at falling prices that they say are endangering their livelihoods.

The farmers who caused travel chaos earlier this summer when they blocked entry to towns and tourist attractions around the country are set to do the same when they reach Paris on Thursday.

Their tractor convoy which was already 70 vehicles strong when it set off from Brittany on Tuesday is destined for Place de la Nation in Paris.

On Thursday morning the protest, organized by farming union FNSEA, will see farmers hold a go-slow on the Périphérique, the ring road around Paris, a move likely to bring commuter traffic to a halt.

'Sorry Paris but the farmers are coming'

"We're at our wits' end," said Sebastien Louzaouen, a member of the Young Farmers' Union, which represents agricultural workers aged 35 and under.

"If we show that we can blockade Paris, maybe it will prod the government into action. My apologies to the Parisians, but the farmers are coming."

Breton flags were flying from many of the tractors and numerous vehicles were daubed with slogans to highlight the plight of the farmers who say their livelihoods are in jeopardy due to falling prices for their produce, which they blame on foreign competition and supermarket giants.




One read “Peasant anger rises in Paris” while another was a common criticism of France’s strict labour laws and notoriously hefty red tape: “Bureaucracy kills jobs”.

Another slogan painted on a tractor simply read: “Help, we are dying”.

The convoy will gather in Place de la Nation, after which a small number of tractors will head to the French parliament where they will warn MPs “that rural life is at breaking point”.

Other protests are set to take place on a smaller scale around the country.

Story continues below…

The agriculture minister has estimated that around 10 percent of farms in France -- approximately 22,000 sites -- are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of one billion euros.

In July, the under-pressure French government announced a €600-million rescue plan for its struggling agriculture industry following days of protests, which saw the town of Caen blockaded as well as the route to Mont-Saint-Michel (see photo below).


The measures sparked a mixed reaction, with some farmers stopping their protests, but others vowing to step up their blockades.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared: "We hear the anguish of the farmers," many of whom say they are on the brink of bankruptcy due to falling prices and increased competition.
"We have seen a fear of the future but also the desire to do a job that is more than a job: being a farmer means making a lot of sacrifices ... and contributing to the unique job of feeding the French people," Valls told reporters.
Valls said the government would waive around €100 million in taxes and set aside a further €500 million to give farmers more time to pay various debts and taxes.
In addition, France's public investment bank will guarantee €500 million in loans for farmers to ease their cash flow crisis.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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