France’s two major farmers unions have made the decision to suspend protests and remove road blockades across the country. This development comes shortly after the French prime minister unveiled a new set of measures that are seen as “tangible progress” by the unions.
The farmers have been protesting for days, aiming to draw attention to low wages, heavy regulation, and unfair competition from abroad. In a joint statement, Arnaud Gaillot, President of the Young Farmers union, and Arnaud Rousseau, President of France's biggest farmers union FNSEA, announced: "We call on our members to suspend the blockades."
According to Rousseau, they have been heard on several points and have seen tangible progress. This includes emergency measures to financially support struggling farmers and wine producers. The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, had earlier announced these new measures, building on promises made in recent days.
While Attal was delivering his speech, convoys of angry farmers driving heavy-duty tractors created chaos outside the European Union’s headquarters, demanding relief from rising prices and bureaucracy at the EU summit. Attal emphasized that there is indeed a future for agriculture in Europe.
Protesters who had set up road blockades across France watched the Prime Minister's speech on smartphones and televisions. As of Thursday morning, there were still traffic barricades on eight highways around Paris, with a significant police presence.
French Government Takes Action to Support Farmers and Ensure Food Safety
The French government is responding to the concerns of farmers by implementing new measures to support them and address stricter pesticide regulations. French farmers have been critical of the disparity in regulations between France and neighboring countries.
Furthermore, the government has taken immediate action by banning the importation of fruits and vegetables treated with Thiaclopride, an insecticide that is currently banned within the EU. This move seeks to uphold European and French health standards and protect consumers from potentially harmful products.
In addition, France intends to propose the establishment of a "European control force" to combat fraud, particularly in relation to health regulations. This initiative aims to prevent the importation of food products that do not meet European and French health standards.
France remains steadfast in its opposition to the EU signing a free-trade agreement with the Mercosur trade group. The government asserts that it will not accept any such treaty due to concerns over its potential impact on domestic farmers.
The government's objectives with these new measures are threefold: to rejuvenate the value of food, bolster farmers' income, and protect them against unfair competition. By simplifying their daily lives, the government aims to alleviate some of the burdens faced by farmers in their agricultural pursuits.
To support livestock farmers, 150 million euros ($162 million) in aid will be provided. Additionally, taxes on farms being transferred from older generations to younger ones will be reduced, facilitating the smooth transition of agricultural operations.
Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau announced a generous 2 billion euro ($2.16 billion) package to provide loans for aspiring farmers, offering them financial support and a pathway into the industry.
To ensure fair prices for farmers, the French government has significantly increased the number of controls on food industrial groups and supermarkets. Non-compliance with the 2018 law, which mandates fair pricing for farmers, can result in fines of up to 2% of sales revenue.
In this evolving landscape, the French government remains committed to supporting farmers and safeguarding food safety. The measures implemented aim to address key concerns, bolster the agricultural sector, and protect both consumers and the livelihoods of farmers across the country.