Leading farming groups in France have called on farmers to end their days-long protests after the country’s government promised new measures to support the agricultural sector.
“We say we should transform the action, by telling people they need to go home because there are also people who have jobs to do, there are also people who have been away from home for a very long time,” Arnaud Rousseau, the head of the FNSEA union, was quoted as saying yesterday (1 February) by Reuters.
Farmers in France and a clutch of other EU member states, angry at rising costs and cheap imports, have carried out days of protests and set up blockades on key transport routes.
In France, the protests affected routes into Paris. Demonstrations among farming groups also led to the blockade of access routes to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Farmers in Italy and in Spain have also held protests.
In a series of comments yesterday, Gabriel Attal, France’s Prime Minister, said the country’s government would look to bolster its food sovereignty, shore up import controls and underlined Paris’ opposition to the proposed trade deal between the EU and the South American bloc Mercosur.
“Across Europe, our farmers are facing unease and, I say, a form of crisis which also concerns our neighbours. Everywhere in Europe, the same question arises: how to continue to produce more and better, how to continue to face climate change, how not to suffer from unfair competition from foreign countries, how to resist in a market that has sometimes been akin to a form of jungle? In short, this question which arises everywhere in Europe: is there a future for our agriculture? Obviously, the answer is yes,” Attal said.
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He said the French government would look to enshrine in law “the principle of agricultural and food sovereignty” and publish annual reports on the country’s self-sufficiency in food.
Attal added: “There is no question of France accepting this treaty [with Mercosur]. It’s clear, it’s clean, it’s firm.”
France’s Prime Minister also announced €150m in aid for livestock farms. Marc Fesneau, the country’s Agriculture Minister, also set out a €2bn package of loans for people entering the farming sector.
Paris would also look to promote regulation at EU level, including on the naming of “synthetic” meat products and on origin labelling. “We had a first victory last week on the origin of honey and we will continue. It is an issue of transparency for our consumers, and an issue of justice and truth for our farmers.”
Remi Dumas, vice president of the Jeunes Agriculteurs farming lobby, told France 24 today its members were returning to their farms.
“Today our union is getting back to work, whether on our farms or with the authorities, to move forward on the points announced and maintain pressure,” Dumas said.