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French farmers unions call to end protests as PM unveils new measures | News

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Gabriel Attal pledged a ‘future’ for France’s agriculture sector and promised solutions to combat bans and fraud.

France’s leading farming unions have called to end nationwide roadblocks over pay, tax and regulation after securing promises of government assistance.

French farmers have blocked roads around the country for two weeks in protests that spread across Europe last week.

The farmers were protesting against low earnings, regulation and what they call unfair competition from abroad.

Arnaud Rousseau, chief of the biggest rural union FNSEA, and Young Farmers (JA) President Arnaud Gaillot held a news conference to announce the suspension of the action on Thursday.

The announcement followed promises of cash, eased regulations and protection against unfair competition by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, the government’s second wave of concessions in a week.

Gabriel Attal’s speech came as convoys with hundreds of farmers created chaos outside the European Union’s headquarters, demanding leaders at an EU summit provide relief from rising prices and bureaucracy.

“The question is currently being asked throughout Europe: Is there a future for our agriculture? Of course, the answer is yes,” Attal said.

Farmers drive their tractors during a protest
A farmer stands atop a tractor to take a picture during a protest called by local branches of major farmer unions [Frederick Florin/AFP]

Attal announced that France was banning, starting immediately, imports of fruits and vegetables coming from outside the EU that have been treated with Thiaclopride – an insecticide currently banned in the bloc.

He also said no pesticides would be banned in France that are authorised elsewhere in the EU. The statement was in response to a demand by French farmers who have denounced stricter regulations in France on pesticide products than in neighbouring countries.

‘Tangible progress’

France will propose the creation of a “European control force” to combat fraud, he said, particularly regarding health regulations, and fight against the import of food products that do follow European and French health standards.

Attal also reaffirmed that France would remain opposed to the EU signing a free-trade deal with the Mercosur trade group.

“There is no question of France accepting this treaty,” he said.

The government’s goals with the newly announced measures are “to give food its value back” and “to boost farmers’ income, to protect them against unfair competition and to simplify their daily life”, he said.

Attal also announced 150 million euros ($162m) in aid to livestock farmers and a decrease in taxes on farms being transferred from older generations to younger ones.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau, speaking after Attal, announced a two-billion-euro ($2.16bn) package to fund loans for those who are setting up as farmers.

The French government has said it will fine food industrial groups and supermarkets that do not comply with a 2018 law meant to pay a fair price to farmers. The fine can reach up to 2 percent of sales revenues to companies that do not comply.

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