French Farmers Torch Tax Office

French vegetable farmers protesting against the price slumps set fire to tax and insurance offices in Morlaix, Brittany. The farmers used tractors and trailers to dump artichokes, cauliflowers and manure. It is also alleged that they prevented the fire services from putting out the blaze. So what’s the background to this? Judith Hitchman of Urgenci gives some context.

When the European Union decided to implement sanctions on a limited number of individual financial transactions of Russians, as token response to the Russian intervention in Ukraine, they may have underestimated the strength of what the Russian response would be. Russia’s effective ban on all agricultural imports from the European Union has hit not only large but also small-scale producers across the European Union very hard.

As the large-scale producers are unable to export their produce, they are flooding the internal markets, dumping their produce, forcing local prices paid to small-scale producers to plummet, be it for cabbages and apples in Austria or artichokes in Brittany. Cabbages are being massively destroyed and apples left unpicked in Austria. Some of the large industrial producers have, of course found loop-holes by transiting their goods through Switzerland and other non-EU countries.

Last week, Breton farmers from the Morlaix region became so incensed with the fact that they either can not sell their produce at all or at least not at a fair price, that they took direct action of an incendiary nature, setting the local tax office on fire in their expression of anger. It was alleged by local authorities that the farmers stopped the local fire brigade from accessing the site to put the fire out.