Angry French farmers bring tractor convoys to Paris

The Local France/AFP
The Local France/AFP - [email protected]
Angry French farmers bring tractor convoys to Paris
French farmers of the Coordination Rural (CR) agricultural union drive tractors on the Pont Mirabeau with the Eiffel tower in the background during a farmers' demonstration ahead of the opening of the Salon de l'Agriculture. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Ahead of the opening of France's biggest farm show, convoys of tractors have arrived in Paris while across France demos and roadblocks have restarted.


Two convoys of tractors arrived in Paris in Friday, staging opérations escargots (rolling roadblocks) in the centre of the capital and trundling slowly past the Eiffel Tower.

Meanwhile blockades and rolling roadblocks have been staged across the country as farmers ramp up protests again, having been unconvinced by the measures outlined by the government so far to address their grievances.


When union leaders agreed to call off the road blockades that brought large parts of France to a halt last month, they gave the government a deadline to come up with concrete proposals.


That deadline was the opening of the Salon de l'Agriculture, France's biggest farm show which begins at Porte de Versailles, Paris, on Saturday.

Farmers travelling to the capital to exhibit their livestock have formed into convoys to stage demos. 


President Emmanuel Macron is visiting the show on Saturday, and seems likely to get a frosty reception from many farmers, with demos likely to continue on Saturday.

Meanwhile around the country motorways and supermarkets were blockaded on Friday as prime minister Gabriel Attal travelled to Charente-Maritime in the south west to try and calm the anger. 

The farmers' complaints include what they call burdensome environmental rules and the threat of cheap imports from outside the European Union, and they also demand measures to address the low income many of them still suffer.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal failed to placate them with a host of measures announced on Wednesday, and all sights are now on Macron, who is scheduled to visit the agriculture fair as is customary for presidents on Saturday.

Macron has said he would hold a debate there involving "all actors in the agriculture world" to "outline the future" of the sector.

But the initiative came off to a rocky start when Macron included the radical ecology group "Soulevements de la Terre" (Uprisings of the Earth), which his own interior minister recently tried to have banned on the grounds they were "eco-terrorists".


After protests from farming unions, opposition politicians and even from within the government's ranks, the Soulevements group was quickly uninvited as Macron's office said there had been "an error".

But the damage was done, with the head of France's biggest farming union FNSEA, Arnaud Rousseau, calling Macron's initiative "cynical" and saying he would not be part of "something that doesn't allow dialogue in good conditions".

Even without the activists, Saturday's debate promised to be "red-blooded", predicted agriculture fair president Jean-Luc Poulain.

Macron's office said he was hoping for a debate that would be "without taboo, in a republican spirit but without filters".

Attal on Wednesday promised to elevate agriculture "to the status of a fundamental national interest", outlining an agriculture bill designed to address farmers' grievances.

But farmers have continued to block motorways and roundabouts, set fire to tyres and lay siege to supermarkets, saying they needed more.

Authorities are finding the farmers' movement "hard to control" in some parts of the country, a police source told AFP.

The FNSEA acknowledged that this year's agriculture fair - a key annual event for farmers, the public and politicians - would be "eminently political" but said it would hopefully also be a "time of celebration".


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