Photo: Damien Meyer Agence France-Presse Farmers block departmental 137 between Rennes and Saint-Malo on Wednesday in western France.
Estelle Emonet – Agence France-Presse and Patxi Vrignon-Etxezaharreta – Agence France-Presse in Bordeaux
The mobilization of French farmers increased on Wednesday with an increase in blockages to obtain “concrete responses” from the government, which says it has “heard the call” and promises announcements “within the days to come.”
Mourning by the accidental deaths of a breeder and her daughter on Tuesday at a roadblock, the movement says it has drawn additional “rage” from it.
Margins of mass distribution, fallows, pesticides, environmental standards, administrative authorizations, price of diesel… Farmers and breeders do not all have the same demands but share the same discomfort, torn between the desire to produce and the need to reduce their impact on the biodiversity and climate.
“It's a general feeling of fed up, we've been trying to tell our politicians for months but nothing is moving,” Julien Duchateau, a farmer in Pas-de-Calais (north).
“There is a lot of uneasiness among the farmers,” also noted Patricia Dagoré, farmer in the Basque Country (southwest) and member of the majority union FNSEA.
“More and more standards are being imposed on us. But how to apply them ? Implementing them all costs. Today, we all have a rope around our necks, our treasuries are in the red,” she continued during the blocking of a highway in Bayonne (south-west) on Tuesday evening.
- Demonstrations across rural Europe
Also in the South-West, demonstrators threw a bale of straw into a McDonald's restaurant in Agen, while 200 tractors blocked the Bordeaux ring road since Wednesday morning.
“We intend to stay there until we have concrete answers,” said Serge Bergeon, local head of the FNSEA.
A minute of silence was observed in tribute to the breeder in her thirties and her teenage daughter hit by a car on a dam on Tuesday in Pamiers (Ariège, in the French Pyrenees).
“We have the rage to continue, for this family who died. They were like us, passionate…” said Yoan Joannic, 20, a cereal producer south of Bordeaux.
Almost a week after starting in Occitania, the movement now affects the entire country, the unease of the peasant world also being expressed elsewhere in Europe.
The three main unions in the profession were received between Monday and Tuesday by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. Without calling for the exit blockages to be lifted.
Blocking roads is “a way to quickly obtain decisions”, underlined Arnaud Rousseau, president of the FNSEA, ruling out “at this stage” a possible blockade of Paris.< /p>
He specified that his union would state its demands on Wednesday evening.
Not all unions are on the same line. Laurent Thérond, a spokesperson for the Confédération paysanne in Vaucluse (south-east), describes the leaders of the FNSEA as “pyromaniac firefighters” by criticizing their productivist approach.
In this region, a convoy of around 70 tractors took the “du soleil” highway, at the Orange toll to go back towards the Drôme further north, and was joined by farmers from this department, where the two processions cut the highway near Montélimar.
Multiple roundabouts, tolls and motorway slip roads have been occupied in recent hours, not to mention snail operations in many regions or the interception of a Spanish truck whose load – frozen vegetables – was emptied on the road.
Photo: Guillaume Souvant Agence France-Presse
Faced with discontent, the government said on Wednesday that it had “heard the call” of farmers. The executive will make announcements “in the coming days,” said government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot, assuring that there was “no question of coming to prevent” road blockages.
She mentioned avenues under study on the taxation of non-road diesel (GNR) and “cash advances”.
Prime Minister Gabriel Attal “is committed to getting on the ground very quickly,” she added.
The latter said on Tuesday that he was working on the remuneration of farmers by manufacturers and supermarkets, as well as on administrative simplification.
While other major European agricultural countries are experiencing similar movements, the European Commission will bring together agricultural organizations, the agri-food sector, NGOs and experts on Thursday.