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French PM Supports Fair Competition in Response to Farmers’ Protests

In response to widespread farmers’ protests, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has announced the implementation of controls on foreign food products to ensure “fair competition” and uphold regulations benefiting local farmers.

During his general policy speech at the National Assembly on Tuesday, Prime Minister Attal underscored the need to guarantee fair competition, stating that foreign products must adhere to the same regulations applied to French farmers. To enforce compliance, food retailers failing to meet the law ensuring a fair share of revenues for farmers will face immediate fines.

Attal, acknowledging the concerns of farmers about their future and livelihood, expressed a commitment to resolving the crisis without ambiguity. He praised the agriculture sector as “our force and our pride.”

Furthermore, Attal revealed a coalition of 22 European Union countries working towards an EU waiver on fallow land. He stated that progress is being made towards a new extension of the exemption, providing relief to farmers facing conditions tied to EU subsidies, including leaving a portion of farmland fallow.

The ongoing farmers’ protests, illustrated by demonstrations across France, have put significant pressure on the government to address demands for better remuneration, reduced bureaucracy, and protection against cheap imports. Protesters, dissatisfied with measures announced last week, set hay bales on fire to block access to Toulouse airport and obstructed highways near Paris with parked tractors.

On Monday, farmers encircled Paris with barricades, causing traffic disruptions. The government, anticipating prolonged protests, deployed 15,000 police officers, primarily in the Paris region, to prevent protesters from entering the capital.

While the government initially planned to reduce subsidies on agricultural diesel, it has since reversed course, promising to ease environmental regulations in response to farmers’ concerns.

Farmers, determined to press on with their demands, have set up camps with tents and reserves of food and water. Despite the government’s efforts to address the grievances, protesters have indicated a readiness for a sustained movement.

The demonstrations have also spread beyond France, with Belgian farmers blocking roads in protest of rising costs, cheap food imports, and EU environmental policies. Spanish farmer associations in Spain announced plans for protests in February, highlighting concerns over strict European regulations and a perceived lack of governmental support. The protests reflect the growing frustration among European farmers, calling for policies that are farmer-friendly and promote fair pricing.

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