Irate French farmers shut down Champs Elysees in Paris | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.10.2009
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Irate French farmers shut down Champs Elysees in Paris

French farmers protesting falling prices and loss of income have staged protests across France. In Paris they've shut down the capital's most famous shopping boulevard.

Protesters on the Champs Elysees in Paris

French farmers warn their entire sector is at risk

Dozens of farmers have erected barricades and set fire to piles of tires on Paris' Champs Elysees. Elsewhere in France thousands of farmers were also taking part in the demonstrations including driving their tractors slowly down busy streets to disrupt the traffic flow and tipping old wine, eggs and manure onto public spaces.

The head of the union representing French farmers (FNSEA), Jean-Michel Letemayer said the entire French agricultural sector was in crisis.

Plummeting prices in the farming sector caused by rich harvests and competition from cheaper imports have led to what French Farms Minister, Bruno Le Maire, has called the worst crisis in more than 30 years.

Speaking on French radio on Friday, Le Maire said he understood the farmers' distress and was working on a plan.

"I will propose a global support plan for agriculture that will include in particular cuts in taxes and levies on 2009 revenues. We will look at what it is reasonable and just to do," he said.

Farmers burning tires and straw on the Champs Elysees.

Farmers burn tires and straw on the Champs Elysees to draw attention to their demands

Farmers are suffocating

Farmers are asking for a government bailout of up to 2 billion euros ($3 billion). This would include tax breaks, interest free loans and direct aid to struggling farmers.

Franck Ballester, head of the Bordeaux region Farmers Union of Gironde told Deutsche Welle the farmers want a one year reprieve.

"We want a white year. This is one year without taxes so that we get some room to breathe. The farmers need oxygen. We are suffocating under France's production costs," he said.

According to Ballester competition from eastern Europe and South America is undercutting French prices and contributing to the crisis.

The farmers are also calling for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Le Maire to fight harder for stricter European Union regulation of the farming sector.

The FNSEA union had come under fire for not taking a more leading role in the January milk crisis. But Ballester said now was the time for solidarity.

"Fifty percent of the farmers are out protesting on Friday. The FNSEA is the only union that can get us out of this crisis. We need to work together," he said.

Friday's protests were a one day action. If Le Maire and Sarkozy do not come up with something concrete, says Ballester, further protests will take place.

tw/Reuters/dpa/AP
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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