French farmers have taken to the streets of Paris to show their anger over restrictions being put on their farming practices.
Arriving in their tractors from all parts of the country, they paraded through the streets of the capitol last Wednesday.
Among the constraints being placed on farming is a ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides to grow sugar beets.
The tractor parade, displaying flags and protest banners, passed close to the offices of the French ministry of agriculture, arriving later at Porte de Versailles, to the south of the city, the venue for the International Agricultural Show to be held in just a few weeks.
The farming union the National Federation of Farmers Union (FNSEA) claimed that more than 500 farmers took part in the protest, causing traffic jams stretching to more than 400 kilometres despite police appeals for motorists to avoid the affected areas.
Jerome Despey, secretary general of the FNSEA, said: “Our means of production keep being undermined by prohibitions
Last month the French government – under pressure after a decision by the European Court of Justice outlawing member states handing out derogations – approved a plan to close a loophole which had allowed the sugar beet farmers to continue using neonicotinoids.
The European Union had introduced a general ban across the EU in 2018.
Sugar beets are important to the French economy, with the country the world’s second-largest producer, with any drop in production liable to harm exports and possibly threaten the sustainability of sugar factories.
The French government has allowed the sugar beet growers to continue using neonicotinoids, which are harmful to bee populations and pose risks to human health, for the past two years after crops were decimated by jaundice disease spread by aphids in 2020.
Sugar beet growers group CGB said the government had agreed that sugar beet growers would be compensated fully for yield losses this year if there was a severe attack of virus yellows.
“We can’t be satisfied but for now this should let farmers plant and allow other solutions to be found for 2024 and 2025,” Franck Sander, the CGB’s president, told Reuters at the protest.
French farmers are also upset over rising production costs linked to soaring energy prices, and a lack of water storage facilities to help irrigate crops.
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