French vegetable farmers have torched government tax and insurance offices and dumped vegetables in the street in a dramatic protest against falling living standards.

Farmers set fire to government buildings, dumped artichoke, cauliflower, potatoes and manure in front of firefighters in the town of Morlaix, Brittany, according to reports in the French media.

About 100 farmers used tractors and other farm machinery to dump the vegetables during protest on Friday (19 September), which was led by the French Association of Vegetable Growers.

They said their businesses were struggling to survive due to falling crop prices and the effect of a Russian ban on food imports from the west.

The farmers are also upset about government tax policies and red tape, which they claim unfairly penalise their businesses.

The French government condemned the violence and called for more dialogue with farmers.

“Nothing can justify these acts of violence,” said French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll.

He added that the cauliflower and artichoke crisis was largely due to “overproduction related to climatic conditions”.

But Morlaix mayor Agnès LeBrun struck a more sympathetic note with the plight of farmers.

He said the attacks were not surprising because alarm bells had been ringing from disgruntled farmers over the past month.

“Farmers aren’t madmen, they are company bosses who aren’t being listened to,” said the mayor.

Mr Le Foll is set to hold two meetings with farm leaders this week to discuss support measures for the vegetable sector.

EU farmers’ co-operative Copa-Cogeca said vegetable prices across continental Europe had plunged by as much as 80% recently and the Russian ban was heavily affecting farmers, who were stockpiling unsold vegetables.

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