The Paris Agriculture Show opens its doors Saturday, with an estimated 700,000 visitors expected to attend. But French President Nicolas Sarkozy's decision not to inaugurate the event has caused tongues to wag.
The International farm show, a beloved annual tradition dating as far back as 1870, opens on Saturday at the vast Porte de Versailles exhibition hall in southern Paris.
Dubbed the "world's biggest farm", the show is expected to draw a record 700,000 visitors to celebrate French farming.
According to the show’s official website, an estimated 2,000 animals, 17,000 types of agricultural products and over 3,000 wines will be on display. In addition to displaying their wares to the general public, industry professionals compete for prizes in such diverse categories as wine, smoked oysters and vanilla.
Don’t fear the reaper
The event however opens under a dark cloud after the presidential palace announced that French President Nicolas Sarkozy would not be inaugurating the fair and would instead appear at the tail end of the show.
Jean-Michel Lemétayer, the president of the main agricultural union FNSEA, expressed dismay at Sarkozy’s decision not to inaugurate the show during an interview with Europe 1 radio station. Sarkozy “has lots of problems with the rural sector”, enplained Lemétayer. The president’s attendance at the opening “would have been a symbol of his intention to defend this profession” he said
French agriculture suffered a significant financial setback in 2009 as revenue for agricultural products dropped 34 percent. For dairy products, the drop reached a dramatic 54 percent.
Dismissing the criticism, France’s agriculture minister, Bruno le Maire, told French channel I-télé that farmers and producers “have the president’s ear”.
The French president is expected to use the event to make fresh announcements in favour of agriculture, according to the farm ministry.
But Sarkozy has a tough act to follow. His predecessor Jacques Chirac, a beloved fixture at the farm show, used to spend up to six hours touring stalls, stroking cows, tasting culinary delights and chatting with farmers.
Sarkozy’s first visit to the show as president in 2008 was marred by a sharp exchange with a man who refused to shake his hand.
The encounter’s footage became an overnight Internet sensation, drawing tens of thousands of clicks on online video-sharing sites.
The Paris agriculture show
Participants set up their stands ahead of Saturday’s opening. (Photo: J. Peyron)
An estimated 2000 animals, 17,000 types of agricultural products and over 3000 wines will be on display at the Paris Agriculture Show, also dubbed "the world’s largest farm". (Photo: J. Peyron)
Not so French after all. McDonald's has been a regular participant since 2001. (Photo: J. Peyron)
Participants take a break from setting up their exhibition stand.(Photo: J. Peyron)
Yannick and Frédéric Breuil hail from rural Corèze in central France. (Photo: J. Peyron)
The nine piglets and their mum have been brought to the fair all the way from Gers in south-west France. (Photo: J. Peyron)
Date created : 2010-02-26