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Government makes concessions in bid to placate protesting farmers

Farmers sit on a highway after spending the night at a barricade in Aix-en-Provence, southern France (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
Farmers sit on a highway after spending the night at a barricade in Aix-en-Provence, southern France (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

With protesting farmers camped out at barricades around Paris, France’s government hoped to calm their anger with more concessions on Tuesday to their complaints that growing and rearing food has become too difficult and not sufficiently lucrative.

Attention was focusing on an address that new prime minister Gabriel Attal was to give in the afternoon to France’s lower house of parliament, laying out his government’s priorities.

The farmers’ campaign for better pay, fewer constraints and lower costs has blown up into a major crisis for Mr Attal in the first month of his new job.

Protesters rejected pro-agriculture measures that Mr Attal announced last week as insufficient. The government promised more responses would be forthcoming on Tuesday.

France Farmers Protests
A sign on a tractor reads ‘live simply from our work’ at a highway barricade in Aix-en-Provence, southern France (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Protesting farmers encircled Paris with traffic-snarling barricades on Monday, using hundreds of lumbering tractors and mounds of hay bales to block highways leading to the French capital that will host the Summer Olympics in six months.

Protesters came prepared for an extended battle, with tents and reserves of food and water.

The government announced a deployment of 15,000 police officers, mostly in the Paris region, to stop any effort by the protesters to enter the capital.

Officers and armoured vehicles also were stationed at Paris’ hub for fresh food supplies, the Rungis market.

Farmers in neighbouring Belgium also set up barricades to stop traffic reaching some main highways, including into the capital, Brussels.

The movement in France is another manifestation of a global food crisis worsened by Russia’s nearly two-year full-scale war in Ukraine, a major food producer.

French farmers assert that higher prices for fertiliser, energy and other inputs for growing crops and feeding livestock have eaten into their incomes.

Protesters also argue that France’s massively subsidised farming sector is over-regulated and hurt by food imports from countries where agricultural producers face lower costs and fewer constraints.