More than 1,000 French farmers blocked the border between France and Germany at six points on Monday, as part of an ongoing wave of protests by French livestock producers over below cost farmgate prices. Starting on Sunday night, the federation of farmers’ unions (FDSEA) in the Lower Rhine blocked five bridges over the river and another border crossing with tractors and improvised barricades. “We’re letting all cars through and lorries out of France,” a union spokesman told journalists, adding that foreign lorries carrying food imports would be blocked.
The farming unions are encouraged by the public support they enjoy: “The French are prepared to pay more, which is encouraging,” Xavier Beulin, the national farmers’ union leader, told journalists. This expedient half-truth sidesteps the fact that supermarkets have been relentlessly grabbing ever larger margins and profiting at the expense of their suppliers and customers alike for years.
During a separate action in south west France, 100 farmers stopped dozens of Spanish lorries at a motorway blockade, looking for meat and fresh produce bound for the French market. Deploying a dozen tractors on the A64 motorway, the farmers’ checks caused queues four kilometres long at times.
The French government is attempting to curb the retailers’ margins and is also urging food industry buyers to pay sustainable prices for their agricultural purchases. This strategy has been ramped up since June and forms part of French farm minister Stéphane Le Foll’s ongoing reform plans for the country’s agricultural sector and his law for the future of farming (loi d’avenir). For a lot of farmers it probably comes too late to save their livelihoods: the minister himself reckons that as many as one in ten French livestock producers are on the verge of going out of business.
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