French farmers re-start protests and roadblocks

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French farmers re-start protests and roadblocks
Farmers at a protest in Guingamp, western France, on February 20, 2024. Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP

French farmers on Wednesday began to enact demos and roadblocks, threatening to re-start the 'agriculteurs en colère' protests which last month saw roadblocks across France.


On Wednesday France was once again the scene of farmer protests, albeit on a small scale so far, including a roadblock on an autoroute in the south west and blockades at supermarkets and factories.

Starting as a small protest over French and EU farming regulations, January's demos turned into one of the biggest farmer protests in recent decades with roadblocks bringing traffic to a halt all over France while farmers threatened to 'besiege' Paris and cut off its food supplies.

In the end, most of the farmers were persuaded to abandon the roadblocks on the autoroutes and go home after prime minister Gabriel Attal unveiled a massive package of financial aid, as well as promises to loosen some of the regulations that farmers say are drowning them in paperwork.

While the two biggest farming unions - the FNSEA and Jeune agriculteurs - agreed to halt the roadblocks, they did add a condition; the government should give them concrete assurances by the start of the biggest event in the farming calendar, the Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris.


With the Salon set to start on Saturday, February 24th, union leaders on Tuesday said they are ready to re-start the protests. Attal, hoping to head off further protests at the pass, is giving a press conference on farming on Wednesday morning.

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The FNSEA and JA leaders met president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening, but ahead of the meeting the JA leaders announced some preemptive measures

Demonstrations have been announced in Pas-de-Calais, Gers, Tarn-et-Garonne and Hautes-Pyrénées for Wednesday.


The A62 between Toulouse and Bayonne was blocked on Tuesday, with farmers saying the blockades will continue on Wednesday.

Farmers in Pas-de-Calais say they plan to 'inspect' supermarkets in the area to check that products advertised as made in France are correctly labelled and to advise customers on the impact that foreign-imports of food are having on the French farming industry. 

Meanwhile farmers in the south-west say they intend to continue to blockade a Danone factory in Villecomtal-sur-Arros.


On Tuesday some rolling roadblocks took place in the Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées and Tarn-et-Garonne départements while a supermarket in Negrepelisse (Tarn-et-Garonne) was blockaded.

There have also been revived protests in the city of Marseille. 

"The time of political decisions has come," said Arnaud Rousseau, head of the biggest farmers' union FNSEA, late Tuesday. "Expectations are running high."

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal was on Wednesday setting out details on the "main measures" included in a forthcoming agriculture law, which is to include a passage on French "food sovereignty", officials said.

He was also to give an update on government promises made at the start of the month.

If the unions do not like what they hear on Wednesday, protests could be stepped up - some farmers are already planning a protest in Paris on Friday evening, the day before the Salon de l'Agriculture opens.


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