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March 4, 2024

French Farmers Lay Siege To Paris With Tractors Over Government Reforms

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Jan 29, 2024

French farmers have brought Paris to a standstill by blockading roads with convoys of tractors to protest government reforms they say threaten their livelihoods. Despite last-minute concessions from the government, the farmers are tightening the noose around the capital as the standoff escalates.

Farmers Stream Towards Paris On Tractors

Hundreds of farmers driving tractors have converged on Paris from across France, causing havoc on the roads leading into the city. Major routes such as the Paris Ring Road and A1 motorway have ground to a halt, with tailbacks stretching for miles.

The farmers are furious over government plans to cut pesticide use and overhaul the subsidy system under Common Agricultural Policy reforms. They fear this will slash their incomes while doing nothing to help them cover soaring costs.

Tractor convoy heading to Paris

A convoy of tractors heads along the Paris Ring Road on Monday as farmers blockade the capital (GETTY IMAGES)

Protester Guillaume Morel told reporters: “The objective is to totally lock down Paris, to prevent food and basic necessities reaching the capital. The goal is to starve Parisians – voila!”

So far the blockades have led to long queues forming at petrol stations and some supermarkets running low on fresh produce. However shelves are not yet bare.

Government Tries To Head Off Siege

Alarmed by the protests, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal held an emergency meeting on Sunday night to try and halt the tractor convoys.

The government offered concessions, including dropping plans to cut taxes on agricultural diesel. Currently farmers benefit from significant discounts compared to regular diesel buyers.

The farm minister also promised to review reforms placing limits on using controversial weedkiller glyphosate and slashing pesticide use by 50% by 2040.

But the last-ditch overtures were unanimously rejected by farm unions, who vowed to go ahead with blockading Paris until their core demands are met.

Farmer roadblock in southern France

Farmers used tractors to blockade roads across France in the run-up to the Paris siege (GETTY IMAGES)

Violence In Provinces Before Paris Blockade

In the days preceding the Paris mobilizations, farmers across France erected fiery barricades and clashed with police trying to clear major routes.

Roadblocks caused a lorry driver to be badly burned when his vehicle crashed into a barricade in southern France last week. Protesters also fired flares at police trying to tow away tractors blocking highways near Toulouse and Narbonne.

A new wave of protests rocked southwestern France over the weekend ahead of the planned tractor convoys to the capital. Farmers again blocked roads with burning barricades as violence flared in towns like Auch, Tarbes and Foix.

Meanwhile in Paris itself, climate activists have staged attention-grabbing stunts targeting iconic artworks to show solidarity with the farmers. Campaigners splashed tomato soup across the Mona Lisa in the Louvre on Friday before gluing themselves to the wall. No lasting damage was done.

Farm Groups United In Anger

In a rare display of unity, all the main agricultural organizations are fully behind the tractor protests. Even organic farmers have joined what they call a “rural revolt” against President Macron’s government.

Cattle, pig, poultry and crop producers put aside long-standing differences to lead a common front. Their unity reflects mounting desperation across French agriculture as farms go bust.

“It’s a question of survival,” said beef farmer Jean François Bloc who travelled to Paris on a tractor from Brittany. “Costs are strangling us while wholesale prices remain paltry – we’re being driven off the land.”

Marc Fesneau, Minister of Relations with Parliament admitted: “agriculture is going through an unprecedented crisis”.

Farm bankruptcies have surged 22% over the past year as production costs spiraled due to soaring energy and animal feed prices. Meanwhile supermarket chains have kept retail food prices low, squeezing farmgate returns.

Catholic Church Backs Farmers

In a strongly worded declaration, France’s Catholic bishops came out in support of the Paris tractor blockade. They slammed the “contempt” shown for rural areas by President Macron’s government.

The bishops blamed EU bureaucrats rather than farmers for environmental damage caused by agriculture. They called EU farming policies “hedonistic” for importing food from countries with lower standards while imposing extra costs on French producers.

What Next As Siege Tightens?

All eyes are now on whether the farmers’ tractor convoys succeed in strangling food supplies to Paris over the coming week. The protest organizers plan to choke the capital until the government climbs down over its reform plans.

Yet after offering concessions that failed to halt the siege, the government insists the reforms must go ahead.

Cracks may also emerge in the farmers’ united front as fuel, economic losses and disruption to everyday life mount. Several previous farmer protests over the years fizzled out after initial flare-ups.

However, with livelihoods on the line, Paris residents should brace for empty supermarket shelves if the tractors continue to blockade cities across France.

The coming days will determine whether President Macron or the farmers blink first in this high-stakes showdown with no signs of compromise on either side.

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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