'The farmers are coming': Over 1,000 tractors set to blockade Paris

2nd September 2015, Comments 0 comments

Farmers riding more than 1,000 tractors will try to blockade Paris on Thursday as they converge on the French capital in protest at falling prices that they say are endangering their livelihoods.

The protest comes after months of unrest as farmers in the dairy and meat industries become increasingly desperate in the face of plummeting food prices which they blame on foreign competition, as well as supermarkets and distributors.

"We're at our wits' end," said Sebastien Louzaouen, a member of the Young Farmers' Union, which represents agricultural workers aged 35 and under.

"If we show that we can blockade Paris, maybe it will prod the government into action. My apologies to the Parisians, but the farmers are coming."

During the summer, protesting farmers around the country dumped manure in cities, blocked access to roads and motorways and prevented tourists from reaching the popular Mont St-Michel in northern France.

In the latest protest, tractors from all over France have for a week been converging on Paris at an average speed of 35 kilometres per hour (22 miles per hour).

Police have asked "drivers to postpone their trips" into the capital on Thursday and to take public transport, as traffic is expected to be severely disrupted.

Farmers' unions have been negotiating with the government, which unveiled an emergency package worth 600 million euros ($680 million) in tax relief and loan guarantees in July.

But they say this is woefully inadequate, as tales of farms going under -- and in the most extreme cases of suicides -- hit the news.

The agriculture minister has estimated that around 10 percent of farms in France -- approximately 22,000 sites -- are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of one billion euros.

A delegation of some 100 farmers will go to France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, Thursday to hand over to lawmakers "the demands and grievances of an agricultural and rural world that is on the brink of exploding and that expects a lot from its national representatives".

© 2015 AFP

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