26 October 1999
French in tit-for-tat blockade

By FWi staff

FRENCH farmers are this afternoon preparing to block lorries carrying British goods across the Channel, in retaliation to boycotts on French goods by British companies.

A spokesman with the regional FDSEA farm union in the Nord-Pas de Calais region told Yahoo News that farmers planned a two-hour protest on Tuesday afternoon in the port of Calais.

“This is because of the English position of boycotting French products,” the FDSEA spokesman said, acknowledging that the British boycott was informal.

This is the latest development in the escalating beef crisis between the countries since France defied the EU and refused to lift BSE the ban on British beef.

Several British supermarkets withdrew French produce in support of British farmers and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said he would boycott French goods.

West Country farmers have been picketing ports to try to stop French trucks arriving in Britain.

Revelations at the weekend that France used human sewage and animal parts in its animal feed prompted calls from the Conservative Party and media for a ban on French beef.

Yesterday the government decided not to introduce a ban after scientific advisors said French meat posed no immediate health risk.

A spokesman at the British embassy in Paris said: “The British government has refused calls by some in the United Kingdom for a protectionist response.

“The British government has and continues to act in accordance with the law.” Jean-Bernard Bayard, president of the FDSEA in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, told Reuters on Monday that French fruit growers had started to feel the effects of the anti-French campaign.

Analysts have said France stands to lose more than Britain from a trade war over agricultural products.

Britain bought FF25 billion-worth (£2.44bn) of food and agricultural goods from France in 1998, more than one-tenth of the total FF230bn exported, according to Frances external trade centre CFCE.

In comparison, Britain sold FF13bn of farm goods to France last year.