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Angry farmers blockade French town to protest against falling prices

Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | A farmer pushes a haystack near the RN 165 motorway to block access to the northwester French city of Vannes on February 15, 2016
2 min

A group of farmers barricaded the main roads into the northwestern French city of Vannes on Monday to protest against plummeting prices for milk, pork and other agricultural products. The protests came as EU agriculture ministers met in Brussels.


The demonstration began at around 6am local time on Monday as convoys of tractors, trailers and trucks blocked six of the main roads leading to Vannes, according to police. Some protesters set fire to hay bales while others dumped refuse onto pavements.

Farmers also staged demonstrations in the northern city of Caen as well as in the eastern city of Ain, where they obstructed the loading docks at a number of large supermarkets.

The protests came as European Union agriculture ministers gathered in Brussels on Monday to discuss a range of issues, including the price crises in the dairy and pork sectors.

French President François Hollande promised last Thursday that the meeting would see results, adding that France would request “a European storage plan” to relieve the bloc’s oversaturated milk and pork markets. Hollande has also announced that the government would reduce payroll taxes for all farmers.

French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll is expected to ask for a temporary increase in the European Union’s public purchase price of powdered milk as well as the creation of an aid package for farmers who voluntarily reduce production during the price slump. The government has also stepped up pressure on the country’s largest supermarket chains to review their pricing practices.

Agriculture producers have been left struggling in recent years for a number of reasons, including the EU’s decision last year to end milk quotas, which helped keep prices stable by preventing overproduction.

Another factor has been Russia’s embargo on imports of European produce, which was introduced in August 2014 in retaliation for EU sanctions for the Kremlin’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

French farmers have complained that the resulting fall in prices has made it nearly impossible to survive, staging a number of protests over the past year to demand more support from both the government and the EU.

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