After Germany, Poland, Romania and the Netherlands, French farmers are blocking roads in the South-West. Their protest movement could spread to other regions, leading to further mobilizations.
It’s a Jacquerie that no one knows today how far it could go. The Executive fears an uncontrollable movement, like that of the Gilets jaunes in 2018, which could inflame France, once again, five months from the European elections and six months from the Olympic Games. And a month before the opening of the Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris. In any case, what’s happening in the southwest is cause for concern.
Roads and freeways cut off
In the Occitanie region, tractors left their farms to express the anger of the farming community. At the call of the Fédération régionale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles (FRSEA), several hundred farmers took to the region’s roads, causing massive traffic jams.
On Tuesday, January 16, 2024, 400 or 500 farm machinery units were in Toulouse, supported by several thousand farmers from all the departments of Occitanie, as well as many Toulousans. They put on a show of strength and promised further action if their demands were not taken into account by both Paris and Brussels. And to show they meant business, the tractors, laden with manure, went on to block the ring road, then other roads and freeways.
On Thursday, they blocked the RN20 in Ariège and the A64, which links Toulouse to Bayonne. On Friday January 19 and Saturday January 20, they are still mobilized, and have announced “an unlimited blockade” until they receive a meeting with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal.
What are the angry farmers in the South-West demanding? Their demands are quite disparate, but all have one common denominator: incomes at half-mast, which no longer allow young farmers in particular to make a decent living from their farms.
In the South-West more than anywhere else, the drought is affecting agriculture. A farmer in the Haute-Garonne explains to the local press that cereals are in short supply to feed his cows. Last summer,” he says, “I harvested three tons of corn on 7 hectares, compared with the usual 35 to 40 tons. As a result, he can no longer feed his animals and is forced to sell part of his herd.
“I can’t get a minimum wage out of my farm,” says another farmer in the Gers.
“We want to make a living from our work”
For all concerned, the rise in energy prices, which is driving up production costs (prices of animal feed and all phytosanitary products), and the fall in selling prices for agricultural products (milk, meat, cereals), under pressure from industrialists and supermarkets, are putting French farmers in an untenable position.
Add to this the inflation of environmental standards, i.e. the constraints imposed on farmers to produce in ecologically-compatible conditions: pollution tax, reduction of fertilizers, suppression of certain pesticides which are authorized in competing countries (South America, Spain, etc.), unfair competition (such as products from the Ukraine), not to mention farm subsidies which are delayed or withdrawn.
And to top it all off, several diseases are hitting livestock farms: bird flu, which is decimating duck and goose farms, and epizootic haemorrhagic disease (EHD), which is affecting cattle farms. There’s plenty to be angry about. “We want to make a living from our work, nothing more,” explains one Pyrenean farmer.
Will he be heard?
Il est anormal que les personnes qui nous nourrissent, travaillent 7/7, 15 h par jour soient au seuil de pauvreté. Nous devons soutenir nos agriculteurs. https://t.co/FqaZubY54L
— VERITY France (@verity_france) January 20, 2024
— Anonyme Citoyen (@AnonymeCitoyen) January 19, 2024