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France

'These tractors belong to banks, not farmers'

Text by Perrine MOUTERDE , Lorena GALLIOT

Latest update : 2010-05-04

Thousands of angry French farmers took to the streets of Paris on Tuesday to protest plummeting revenues. More than one thousand farmers rolled their tractors in a giant convoy across the capital, offering Parisians a rare, spectacular sight.

Anxious and angry, thousands of French farmers gathered in Paris on Tuesday to demand emergency aid measures amid tumbling grain prices. Many of them travelled across the country on their tractors, crawling across French highways at 30 kilometres per hour to reach the capital by morning rush-hour.

More than 1,500 giant tractors rolled across the capital’s iconic squares and boulevards, displaying banners that read “Don’t sell out agriculture.”

Cereal producers, along with sunflower and rapeseed farmers, are angry that volatile markets have left them substantially bankrupt in a “black year” for their industry. The farmer’s union FRSEA rallied delegations from 14 different regions across France.

"Today we can no longer make a living out of what we produce". Yves, cereal farmer in the Marne region (Photo Perrine Mouterde)

  “We can no longer make a living out of what we produce,” Yves, a 44-year-old cereal and rapeseed farmer from north-east France told FRANCE 24. “It costs 150 euros to produce a ton of wheat, which we sell for 100 euros. We’re losing money. EU subsidies make up for part of that, but they’re getting smaller and smaller. All of the tractors you see here belong to banks. A new tractor costs 50,000 euros, but by the time we’ve finished paying them off they’re too old and run down to be worth anything.”

Farmers want swift and concrete government measures to help reduce the tax burden weighing on farmers.

“Parisians support their farmers!”

Curious Parisians clustered on the sidewalks near the Parisian quarters of Bastillle and Nation as the mile-long column of tractors paraded down their streets. Many clapped and cheered as the farmers passed or held up their fingers in a V for victory. One woman held up a sign reading “Parisians support their farmers!”

“My seven-year-old son and I came into the city today especially to support our

Linda, 34, and Evan, 7, watch the tractors go by on boulevard Diderot. "We came to Paris to support our farmers." (Photo Lorena Galliot)
farmers,” Linda, 34, told FRANCE 24. “We live in the suburbs, but are originally from Brittany. We know many farmers there, and times are hard for all of them.”

Bruno, a retired electronics engineer who lives near Place de la Nation, came down from his apartment to watch the show. He supports the farmers, of course, but was mainly excited to see the tractors. “Look at the size of that one! It’s a monster! They all have state-of-the art GPS systems now,” he commented, whipping out his cell phone to take a shot.
“We’re not speculators”

French famers are seeking help beyong borders, urging the European Commission to intervene.

“The solution to this crisis in Brussels’ hands”, cereal farmer Jean-Philippe told FRANCE 24. “We need a system where  prices won’t yo-yo constantly. They need to be stabilized at an average rate.”

“We’re calling for an end to the subsidy system, which is completely absurd,” added Yves. “We just want prices to be regulated so they honestly reflect what the product is worth. We can’t deal with the unstable prices and fluctuations we’re seeing today. We’re not traders or speculators, we’re
"The solution to this crisis is in Brussel's hands". Jean-Philippe, cereal farmer in Meaux, east of Paris. (Photo Perrine Mouterde)
men of the land,” he said.

Agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire said he understands farmers “suffering”, and called on the European Commission on Monday to take measures to raise current cereal prices. “France needs its farmers and we’ll do everything in our power in coming months to ensure they have a stable, decent revenue,” he told reporters.

Date created : 2010-04-27

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