Furious French farmers ramp up protests over prices

French farmers stepped up their protests against low prices with a series of roadblocks in western France.

More than 500 farmers used dozens of tractors to block a number of main roads in the west of France on Wednesday (27 January).

The roadblocks, which began in Brittany last Wednesday (20 January), spread to parts of Normandy and the Pays de la Loire in a day farmers dubbed “Black Wednesday” for travellers.

According to local reports, French farmers claimed all the major roads into the west of the country were blocked on Wednesday.

See also: French farmers torch tyres in roadblock protests over low prices

Farmers blocked motorways with farm machinery and piles of tyres, as they demanded more help from the government amid worsening living conditions.

Tyres were torched across several locations sending plumes of thick black smoke billowing into the air.

French farmers took to Twitter to express their fury.

(Herve Bride said: First fires lit: the national motorway no.12 blocked by farmers at Plounevez-Moedec in the Cotes d’Armor)

France’s main farming union, the FDSEA, organised the action to protest against the low prices farmers were receiving for milk, meat – especially pork products – and some vegetables, which were well below the cost of production.

On Tuesday (26 January), French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll announced he was freeing up a further €290m (£220m) of aid to help the country’s struggling farmers.

This follows a €600m (£422m) package of emergency help to placate farmers announced in the summer.

But farmers are demanding more from government, saying they cannot afford to pay their bills.

(Antoine Esteve said: Blockades in La Rochelle: we’ve put up barriers. Further action to come)

Pig farmer Didier Lucas, president of the FDSEA, told France Info that although the blockades annoyed French citzens, they were “the only way for farmers to get their voices heard”. He said farmers felt the government “despised” them.

Farmers were demanding better labelling from retailers to tell consumers where meat and dairy produce are sourced.

Mr Lucas also called for a fairer distribution of returns in the supply chain. “When pig prices were €1.40/kg [£1.06/kg] last summer, consumers paid €8/kg [£6.08/kg] for sausages.

“Today, the farmgate price of pork is €1.08/kg [£0.82/kg], but the consumer still pays €8/kg. These reductions are not being passed down the chain to the farmer.”

(This tweet lists four major roads where farmers were staging protests from 9.30am on Wednesday)

Further farmer protests were expected to take place in France on Thursday (28 January).

Earlier this week, the NFU warned that a ruthless price war was “decimating dairy farms” in the UK.

With no sign of an upswing in prices on the horizon, NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison urged every dairy farmer to look at their business and decide whether it could survive another period of low prices.

“It’s a bloodbath and those suffering the most are our hardworking dairy farmers,” he said.