Farmers Block Major Paris Roads In Protest Against Insufficient Income, Environmental Policies

French farmers escalated their protest against the government on Monday by blocking major motorways around Paris, with the threat of a complete blockade looming, as reported by news agency AFP (Agence France-Presse).

Protests have surged in France over the past few weeks, with farmers expressing discontent over issues such as income, bureaucratic hurdles, and environmental policies that they argue undermine their competitiveness on the global stage.

The farmers initiated their action by obstructing key highways, including the A13 to the west, the A4 to the east, and the A6, with a convoy of tractors advancing towards Paris from the south.

By mid-afternoon, they successfully established eight chokepoints on major roads leading into Paris, achieving their goal, according to Sytadin, a traffic monitoring service.

Karine Duc, a farmer from the southwestern Lot-et-Garonne department, emphasized the urgency of the situation: “We need answers. This is the final battle for farming. It’s a question of survival,” she said as she joined the convoy of tractors en route to Paris, as reported by AFP.

As per media reports, farmers have initiated traffic blockages on major highways leading to the French capital, which is also the host city for the Summer Olympics in six months. The ongoing protests across France spell another challenging week for the newly appointed Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who assumed office less than a month ago.

Last week, Attal attempted but failed to ease the farmers’ movement with a series of pro-agriculture measures. The farmers argue that these measures fall short of their demands for making food production more lucrative, easier, and fairer, according to an AP (Associated Press) report.

In response, the farmers have declared their intention to converge on major highways leading to Paris from Monday afternoon with their tractors, creating what they describe as a “siege of the capital” in an effort to extract more concessions from Attal’s government.

Arnaud Rousseau, president of the influential FNSEA agricultural union, a key participant in the protests, said on RTL radio, “Our goal isn’t to bother or to ruin French people’s lives. Our goal is to put pressure on the government to rapidly find solutions out of the crisis”. 

The escalating protest in France is another manifestation of a global food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a significant food producer. French farmers highlight war-related increases in prices for fertilizer, energy, and other inputs, impacting their incomes and making farming unsustainable for some.

Protesters also express dissatisfaction with France’s heavily subsidised and over-regulated farming sector, citing red tape and competition from countries with lower costs and fewer constraints on agricultural production.

Media reports and images from BFM-TV show tractors blocking Paris-bound lanes on a major highway from the southwest, displaying banners with messages such as “The state wants our death”. 

According to the AP report, Taxi drivers, with their own grievances, have also organised drive-slow protests on Monday, contributing to nationwide traffic disruptions. Authorities have issued warnings about potential problems on the roads and advised the use of public transport where possible.

To address the situation, the government has deployed 15,000 police officers, primarily in the Paris region, to prevent protesters from entering the capital. Security measures, including armored vehicles, have been implemented at key locations such as the Rungis market, a hub for fresh food supplies, according to AP.

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