France's Agriculture Minister, Bruno Le Maire, has promised "several millions of euros" of aid to the country's ailing fruit and vegetable sector.  

The announcement, which was made during a visit yesterday to a fruit co-operative in the Pyrénées-Orientales département in the south of France, has placated angry farmers who have waged a campaign against cheap foreign imports in recent weeks. 

"It represents a considerable financial effort (on the part of the state) at a time of budgetary restraint," Le Maire said.    

The details of the emergency aid will be presented on 7 September when Le Maire announces a strategic plan for the sector that will make provision for structural changes on issues from commercial relations to economic competitiveness.

"We are heartened by Mr Le Maire's comments and are looking forward to the measures to be announced on 7 September," said a senior official of the main farmers' union, the FNSEA.

Unions have claimed that retailers "blackmail" produce producers into selling at below cost-price. They also underline the significantly higher labour costs of growers in France compared to counterparts in Spain and Italy and have called for market regulation at EU level.  

Le Maire and his Spanish counterpart, Rosa Aguilar, are due to meet in Paris next month to draw up joint proposals to better regulate fruit and vegetable markets, ahead of a summit meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers on 19 September.