French farmers block roads as ‘25,000 face bankruptcy’

French farmers have caused total gridlock in northwestern France in recent days, by blocking the roads with their tractors and machinery in protest against the low prices they are receiving for their produce.

Today (Tuesday) tractors continue to block off the roads to Mont-Saint-Michel; France’s second most-visited tourist attraction.

The blockade began on Sunday evening with farmers across Normandy blocking the roads in the town of Caen.

The French Minister for Agriculture, Stephane Le Foll, has said that there is an agricultural crisis in the beef, pork and dairy sectors in France.

Since the start of the year, he said that figures collected by his department show that some 23,000 French farmers are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Le Foll said that the crisis is primarily for milk, a global crisis related to the butter market, the milk powder at the end of quotas and contraction of larger markets, especially China.

In the pork sector, he said that it is necessary to value French meat and contractualise trade agreements between farmers, slaughterers and processors.

For beef, he said it is a national problem, that French beef consumption is changing. The Russian embargo and competition from other EU countries are other reasons for the low producer prices.

Price wars between supermarkets are also pushing down farmers’ incomes.

These protests are not a new occurrence in France, in November last year farmers staged what they called a ‘Grand Mobilisation’ protesting across the country due to poor prices for their produce.

Organised by the French Farmers Union (FNSEA) and the Young Farmers Union (YA), last year the day saw tonnes upon tonnes of manure and rotting vegetables dumped on French streets.

French farmers have been holding protests for weeks, including a national “night of distress” earlier this month.

More manure was dumped outside French supermarkets, tyres were set on fire and roads were blocked.