Paris Agriculture Show opens as angry farmers continue quarrel over costs

By Sarah Elzas with RFI
FEB 24, 2024 LISTEN

French President Emmanuel Macron was met with whistles and insults from angry protesters who clashed with police ahead of the opening of France's annual Agriculture Show in Paris on Saturday. This comes as farmers continue to protest in France and Europe over rising costs and dropping revenue. 

Facing dozens of policemen inside the trade fair, the farmers were shouting and booing, calling for Macron to resign, using expletives aimed at the French leader.

Shortly afterwards, Macron began his traditional visit with a breakfast meeting with trade union leaders, behind closed doors, before addressing the press. 

He called for the fair to go ahead in a "calm" atmosphere and condemned the clashes between farmers and police officers earlier in the morning.

However, he 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.

Horizon 2040

Instead, Macron proposed to hold a consultation "with all trade union organisations" in three weeks time at the Elysée palace, in particular to "consolidate emergency measures" and "build a French and European agricultural future plan for 2040".

In 2019, following months of weekly yellow vest protests, Macron launched a similar consultation or 'Great national debate' to gather proposals to address the protesters' grievances.

The results were interrupted by the Covid pandemic, and it is unclear the format the debate with farmers will take, though some 200 people – farmers, union members, associations – are expected to take part, according to the Figaro newspaper.

Weeks of roadblocks and a potential "siege" of Paris were called off at the start of February after the government proposed some measures, including a pause in the implementation of the Ecophyto plan to reduce pesticide use.

But farmer unions have continued to pressure the government for more concrete measures to address costs, and local groups have continued road and highway blockages.

This week Prime Minsiter Gabriel Attal outlined legislation that would include a package of measures, and the launch of a parliamentary mission on the Egalim law, designed to guarantee fair prices for farmers during negotiations from distributors.

He said a specific plan for livestock breeders, who are particularly suffering from a drop in income, will be presented at the agriculture fair.

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

Part of Macron's visit will also include meeting the hundreds of farmers who have brought their prize cows and livestock from all over the country, including this year's mascot, Oreillette, a five-year-old brown Normande dairy cow.