French president Francois Hollande came under fire from angry farmers at an agricultural show over his handling of the price crisis.
Furious French farmers booed and jeered as Mr Hollande and French farm minister Stephane Le Foll toured the annual event at the Paris agriculture show on Saturday (27 February).
According to local reports, five members of France’s main farmers’ union, the FNSEA, were arrested after the protest turned violent. Riot police were called in after the French agriculture ministry’s stand was destroyed.
Some farmers wore black clothing to highlight their concerns that current agricultural policy is killing their industry.
Then on Sunday (28 February), protesters dumped about 30kg of flour on the stall belonging to leading meat producer Charal and blasted it with fire extinguishers.
Farmer anger boiled over at the nine-day event following months of protests amid ongoing tensions over low farmgate prices, well below the cost of production, especially for dairy, beef, pork and some vegetables.
FNSEA head Xavier Beulin said he wanted to remind Mr Hollande about the depths of the crisis.
Mr Hollande said he had come to the show to listen to farmers, adding he understood that the current crisis was “exceptionally hard and long”.
One young livestock farmer told Mr Hollande: “It’s very hard for young people to make a living in farming.
“France should promote its own produce more and stop buying meat from abroad.”
Sheep farmer Luc Bourgeois told France 24 news channel: “In my area, the Bourg du Rhones, land is being taken over to build houses, so available land is scarce.
“It was hard for me to find some for my sheep. The other difficulties we face are money related with the lack of bank loans.”
Analysts say the crisis in agriculture has been caused by the Russian ban on western food imports, a fall in global demand and oversupply of milk, a steep drop in demand from China, diminishing incomes, mounting debts, government inaction and red tape.
In mid-February, French prime minister Manuel Valls announced €500m (£393m) worth of tax cuts for French farmers.
Earlier this month, French farmers dumped some of the vegetables they had produced in a protest outside a supermarket in Salon-de-Provence, southern France.