France in the heat of demonstrations. Farmers’ protests are spreading across the country

Luc Williams

What are farmers demanding?

French farmers demand simplification of administrative procedures, oppose the European “Green Deal”, which aims in particular to reduce the use of pesticides, demand reductions in diesel prices for tractors and full application of the law that forces producers and supermarkets to pay higher prices for agricultural products.

Farmers’ protests started a week ago in Occitania and over the next few days they spread to other regions in western and northern France. It was blocked, among others: the A7 motorway at Drome in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and the A62 motorways at Agen in New Aquitaine and the A16 near Beauvais in the north of the country.

On Wednesday in Agen in the southwest, demonstrators threw a bale of straw into a McDonald’s restaurant, blocked the A62 highway and threatened to break down the prefecture’s gates, which had already been doused with slurry on Tuesday.

200 tractors blocked the Bordeaux ring road connecting Paris with Spain. This route is used daily by 85,000 to 140,000 vehicles, including 6,000 to 18,000 trucks.

Convoy of tractors

A convoy of about 70 tractors left Vaucluse on Wednesday morning and drove along the A7 motorway, adding more farmers on tractors over time. Protesters then blocked the highway in both directions near Montelimar.

Not far from there, on national road No. 7, a group of protesters intercepted a Spanish truck carrying frozen vegetables and dumped its contents on the road.

In Brittany, Hauts-de-France and Occitanie, roadblocks continue to disrupt traffic on motorways and national roads. In Normandy, breeders blocked a Camembert factory. In turn, the prefecture of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region called on the local community to “postpone all travel” and “switch to teleworking”, warning that the motorways A47 in Givors, A49 between Valence and Grenoble, A71, A75 and A89 in Clermont-Ferrand will be blocked .

In Toulouse on Wednesday morning, a “snail operation” took place from the airport to the city center, and farmers were joined by taxi drivers. Several roundabouts and roads were blocked.

In Gironde, local farmers honored the memory of two people who died on Tuesday by participating in the protests with a minute of silence. She was a 35-year-old farmer who died when a car drove into a crowd of demonstrators. Her husband and teenage daughter were seriously injured in the accident and died in hospital on Tuesday evening.

This is not the end of the demonstration

Farmers also intend to organize new demonstrations, especially in Aisne and Pas-de-Calais. According to the local prefecture, “access to various platforms leading across the English Channel will likely be disrupted”, namely the Channel Tunnel and the port serving ships heading to England.

At the request of the authorities of agricultural organizations, the blockades have not yet affected Paris, although after blocking the A16 motorway in Oise, protesters have already reached the gates of the French capital, and some spent the last night there.

Talks with the French government are at an impasse

As AFP writes, talks between agricultural organizations and the French government are currently at an impasse. The president of the FNSEA association, Arnaud Rousseau, warned on Wednesday that “almost 85 departments will be involved in operations by Friday,” and the aim of the protests is to force the government to respond quickly to farmers’ demands.

On Wednesday morning, government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot only said that the authorities had no intention of preventing agricultural blockades because “they are organized within a legal framework.”

Thevenot then assured that the government “has heard the farmers’ cries and will make further decisions in the coming days.” “The farming people are appealing to us (…), we have heard it. There is an urgent need to respond to the demands of this sector. The executive power is determined to protect the French agricultural model so that farmers can live with dignity from their work,” the spokeswoman said. (PAP)


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