Protesting farmers in France have encircled Paris with barricades made of tractors and hay bales, causing traffic disruptions and putting pressure on the government to address the challenges facing the agricultural industry. The farmers' protest comes in response to what they perceive as insufficient measures taken by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to support the agricultural sector. They are demanding that producing food be made more profitable, easier, and fairer.
The protesters have deployed convoys of tractors, trailers, and harvesters, describing their actions as a "siege" of Paris to gain more concessions. Some protesters have even come prepared with food, water, and tents, intending to stay at the barricades until their demands are met. They argue that French agriculture needs to be defended and that the government should prioritize the needs of farmers.
The protests highlight the existing economic and social disparities between urban and rural areas in France. Farmers feel ignored by government ministers who they believe have little understanding of their challenges and rarely visit farms. The government has responded by deploying 15,000 police officers, primarily in the Paris region, to prevent protesters from entering the capital. Security measures have also been implemented at the Rungis market, Paris' main fresh food supply hub.
Similar protests have also taken place in neighboring Belgium, with farmers setting up barricades to block traffic on major highways. The demonstrations in France and Belgium reflect a broader global food crisis, exacerbated by Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, a significant food producer.
Farmers argue that rising prices for inputs like fertilizer and energy, coupled with overregulation and competition from cheaper food imports, have negatively impacted their incomes. They cite Ukrainian sugar producers as an example, whose increased exports to Europe following the Russian invasion have had detrimental effects on their European counterparts.
The farmers' protest is expected to continue until at least Thursday, coinciding with a summit in Brussels where EU leaders will discuss financial aid for Ukraine. The situation is causing traffic disruptions and chaos, with taxi drivers also organizing protests to express their grievances. Authorities have advised road users to consider using public transport to avoid further disruptions.