Angry farmers prepare to confront Macron at Paris farm fair

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 8:09 PM

PARIS (Reuters) – Farmers prepared to protest on Saturday against President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to a major Paris farm fair, amid anger over costs, red tape and green regulations.

Dozens of tractors rolled into the French capital on Friday afternoon, loudly honking their horns. One tractor carried a sign reading: “Macron you’re sowing the seeds for a storm – be careful of what you reap.”

Farmers have been protesting across Europe, calling for better income and less bureaucracy and complaining of unfair competition from cheap Ukrainian goods. The European Union in 2022 waived duties on Ukrainian food imports to support the country’s economy following Russia’s invasion.

“Some farmers will try to stop the president (Macron) from entering the trade fair,” Jean Lefevre, who is a member of FNSEA, France’s largest farming union, told Reuters. “And if he does get in, they will disturb his walkabout.”

In another sign of how tense relations between farmers and the government still, Macron cancelled a debate he wanted to hold at the farm fair on Saturday with farmers, food processors and retailers, after farmers unions said they would not show up.

The Paris farm show is a major event in France, attracting around 600,000 visitors over nine days.

Farmers’ protests, which have spread across Europe, come as the far right, for which farmers represent a growing constituency, is seen making gains in June’s European Parliament elections.

French farmers earlier this month largely suspended protests that included blocking highways and dumping manure in front of public buildings after Prime Minister Gabriel Attal promised new measures worth 400 million euros ($432.56 million).

But protests resumed this week to put pressure on the government to provide more help and deliver on promises, ahead of the Paris farm show.

“We’re still not being heard by the government, the measures are not enough for us,” farmer Hugo Gervais said.

(Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Leslie Adler)