French farmers hand out vegetables to protest cheap imports
Flanked by mountains of potatoes in a central Paris square, irate farmers Wednesday handed out free fruit and vegetables to all comers in a protest against cheap imported produce.
Organisers said between 700 and 800 farmers from the Paris region showed up for the demonstration, bringing in some 60 tonnes of potatoes and 20 tonnes of onions, apples and pears, all grown in the region.
A banner reading "I want to eat French products today and tomorrow" stretched across a monument in the middle of the square.
"Let us grow French," shouted Arnaud Rousseau, head of a regional farmers union, FNSEA.
Their farms are threatened by the collapse of prices for cereals, milk and vegetables, caused in part by the sanctions on Russia, said another union leader, Damien Greffin.
They were also protesting increasing government constraints and charges, as well as rising fertiliser prices.
The FNSEA, which was staging other protests across the country on Wednesday, is calling for "food patriotism", demanding that two out of three dishes served in public canteens be made using French produce.
At dawn, a group of about 20 activists known as the Young Farmers went to the edge of the city to check the produce heading to the canteens of the economics ministry.
"Tomatoes from Morocco, apples from Italy, unlabelled produce: the economics ministry should set an example of Made in France, and that is not the case," said Samuel Vandaele, the group's deputy leader.
In southwestern Toulouse, a line of tractors and pickup trucks unloaded manure outside a government office.
"They are cowboys who come to us to tell us we are not in compliance" with a new regulation on fertiliser, one official shouted through a megaphone.
Some 70 tractors drove into the centre of southwestern Pau, causing huge traffic pileups.
© 2014 AFP