Tractors in Paris: Hundreds of farmers block roads in French capital, demanding ‘fair prices’
The organizer of the protests, France's largest farming union FNSEA, say as many as 1,733 tractors, from Brittany, Normandy, Aquitania, Burgundy and Pays D’Oc, headed to the capital on Thursday morning. The vehicles were set to gather on the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris, with some of them planning to move on to Parliament later.
"Milk has dropped to €320 per tonne from €340 last year, and it's still falling," said Christian Ribet from Brittany, the Local reported. "We sell at a loss even though it's supposed to be against the law."
About 5,000 protesters were expected to rally on foot.
The tractors are decorated with banners and spray-painted inscriptions, such as ‘Anger’ and ‘Enough Bureaucracy.’
“It's not popular to annoy all the people on their way to work. ...Nevertheless, it's one of the only ways to make ourselves heard,” grain farmer Pierre Bot, from Vauhallan south of Paris, told Associated Press, adding that in his opinion farming “is part of the French identity.”
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a well-known advocate of structural reforms in the farming sector, has announced he will hold a meeting with FNSEA heads on Thursday.
According to FNSEA, French farmers are demanding “fair prices” and "structural reforms" in order to save the French agricultural industry. Earlier this year, the French government announced plans to allocate €1.1 billion to help livestock farming in the country.
Initiated by France, a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels on Monday is expected to be accompanied by a pan-European protest by farmers.
In July, farmers in France blocked routes from Spain and Germany to express anger at lowered prices for meat and dairy products. Roads to some popular tourist destinations were also cut off.
At least 300 foreign trucks were forced to turn back as farmers used tractors and burning tires to block lorries transporting agricultural goods across the Rhine River from Germany.
Russia’s embargo on certain products from the EU, US and several other countries initiated in August 2014 in response to sanctions introduced by the West on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, has also contributed to the crisis in the French agricultural sector.
In July, Nadine Morano, a former French minister, said that due to the Russian food embargo, the EU has already lost €21 billion and could lose up to €81 billion over time.
“For the French agricultural sector, the food embargo has been dramatic, and we can all see the direct effects of the government's international policy," she told France’s Sud Radio.