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Paris agriculture show opens amid discontent over Sarkozy snub

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-02-27

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.

Date created : 2010-02-26

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