Angry French farmers blockade Mont St-Michel over food prices

20th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of angry French farmers blocked roads across northern France on Monday, including access to Mont Saint-Michel, one of the country's top tourist spots, demanding higher milk and meat prices.

The protests by dairy, pork and beef farmers have been building for weeks and gathered pace on Sunday when hundreds arrived on the outskirts of the Normandy town of Caen aboard over 300 tractors and other farm vehicles, according to local officials.

Many were armed with buckets full of earth and manure, some of which they dumped in front of businesses -- including an abattoir, a distribution company and a meat-processing plant -- which they accuse of being part of the problem.

"Angry farmers" and "You are letting us die" were among the banners on display, as the tractors organised a go-slow on one of the main roads through the Normandy and Calvados regions.

"It's one of the biggest mobilisations for several years," said Sebastien Debieu, secretary general of farmers' union FDSEA.

"We will continue the blockage until (Minister of Agriculture Stephane) Le Foll comes to Caen," he said.

The protests spread to Mont Saint-Michel, a world heritage site monastery that welcomes some three million visitors a year, with 400 farmers on 200 tractors blocking the two access roads.

Retailers and food industry heads promised to raise prices on meat and dairy after a meeting with farmers last month.

But farmers say they have yet to benefit from the price hikes in supermarkets, triggering a wave of strikes across the country.

Samuel Bidert, of the Young Farmers group taking part in the protest, said he was currently paid 300 euros ($325) per tonne of milk, but that he needed 370 euros "to live in dignity without depending on my wife, and 340-350 to pay my costs without receiving a salary".

President Francois Hollande called over the weekend for France's distributors "to offer consumers quality and farmers a good price".

Le Foll said he would meet the farmers in Paris on Thursday after speaking with pricing experts, but the unions are calling for a sit-down with all the food industry bosses.

"Meetings in Paris that don't lead to anything do not interest us," said Jean-Yves Heurtin, regional head of the FDSEA.


© 2015 AFP

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