French farmers turn Champs Elysees green

23rd May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Champs Elysees was turned into a huge farm on Sunday with plots of plants, trees and flowers laid out on Paris' most famous avenue to focus attention on France's crisis-hit agriculture.

Dubbed Nature Capital, the event is expected to draw two million people over the next two days and is organised by the Young Farmers association and the French forest industry.

Over a stretch of 1.2 kilometres (0.8 miles) from the Arc de Triomphe down halfway to the Place de la Concorde, the Champs are dotted with more than one hundred varieties of grain, fruit and vegetables.

There are also cows, pigs, goats and lambs but in small numbers with a view to showcasing some of the famous breeds such as the enormously fat black-bottomed Limousin pigs, prized for their meat quality.

"We are not there to complain about our situation, but rather to show off our work," said William Villeneuve, head of the young farmers' association.

He hopes strollers on the Champs Elysees will think about "what is on their plates and become more active consumers".

French farmers are already a diminishing breed but one of the worst crises in decades has further unsettled the sector, fuelled by falling prices and rocketing production costs.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has offered an aid plan for French farmers with some 1.8 billion euros in loans (2.3 billion dollars) and 650 million euros in other support payments.

Last month, hundreds of farmers rode into Paris on their tractors, bringing their worries about the future of farming to the capital of Europe's agricultural powerhouse.

Sarkozy has in past months made several trips to rural France, visiting farms and trying to ease the anger of producers who say they are no longer making ends meet.

About 200 trucks rolled onto the Champs Elysees late Saturday to unload the trees, plants and topsoil and part of the avenue has been closed to traffic.

Nature Capital was designed by Gad Weil, an outdoor events planner who 20 years ago organised a similar happening that turned the Champs Elysees into a giant wheat field.

© 2010 AFP

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