French farmers roll into Paris to oppose ‘agri-bashing’

27 Nov 2019 | Rei Geyssens

Over 1,000 tractors headed for the French capital on Wednesday morning as farmers protested against government policies that include a phase-out of weedkiller glyphosate and trade agreements they say have undermined the sector.

Farmers flooded the capital and blocked arterial roads, demanding talks with French President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

“Our absolute priority is the defence of farmers' income and prices,” the two farm unions and organisers of the protest – FDSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs – said in a joint press statement.

French farmers say government policies on pesticides and fertilisers will restrict production and hurt profits, while recent trade policy threatens to make them uncompetitive, they add.

Macron has come under fire because of an EU trade deals with Canada, and a provisional deal with the Mercosur South American trading bloc, although the French government has threatened to veto the latter.

Farmer claim that these deals will enable cheap imports to undercut them, worsen livelihoods and lower French quality standards.

The French president has already watered down his key campaign promise to end the use of glyphosate by 2021, and is now aiming for an 80% reduction by the end of next year.

Yet farmers say that in some cases, there is no alternative to using the weedkiller.

“The public wants a ban on glyphosate, but there is no replacement,” Eric Woerth, an MP from the centre-right Republican Party, said in an interview with  Cnews on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of economically unbearable conditions for farmers. The ‘agri-bashing’ is unbearable. We have to defend our farmers,” Woerth said.

The protest in France follows a similar protest in Germany on Tuesday where 5,000 tractors blocked roads in Berlin in opposition to the government’s agriculture and environmental policies, which include a phase-out of glyphosate from next year.