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French PM Attal’s speech fails to convince angry farmers

French PM Attal’s speech fails to convince angry farmers
French PM Attal’s speech fails to convince angry farmers

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French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, during his government policy statement before the Assemblée Nationale, Paris, January 30, 2024.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal promised to “be present” for the farmers, in response to their anger, during his government policy statement at the Assemblée Nationale on Tuesday, January 30. He had held three hours of talks with the presidents of the two leading farmers’ unions, the FNSEA and the Young Farmers, at the end of the previous day. He called for “a French agricultural exception,” stressing that “our agriculture is a strength,” and saluted “our farmers, our fishermen, who work morning, noon and night to feed us.”

The prime minister reiterated the main measures he had announced on Friday, January 26, such as the opening on February 5 of an aid scheme for livestock producers whose herds have been affected by epizootic haemorrhagic disease, and the doubling of support for farmers in the Brittany region. He also set out the timetable for the total payment of European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) aid for 2023, which will be paid out “by March 15.”

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Attal also referred to reinforcing tax support for livestock farmers, a measure that had been announced by the economy ministry, but which had proved impracticable in practice. He also confirmed the presentation of an aid plan for the wine industry before the end of the week. On Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau announced that the government was putting an additional €80 million on the table to support “all of the wine-producing regions in crisis.”

‘Food sovereignty’ enshrined in law

With regard to the use of plant treatment products, he pointed out that the government had already allocated €250 million to promote research into alternatives. On the subject of the EGalim law, which regulates the remuneration of farmers, the prime minister stressed the need to step up inspections, and announced that the proceeds of any fines imposed would be “reused to provide financial support for farmers.”

In addition, he plans “a major plan to control product traceability,” at a time when farmers are denouncing competition from imported foodstuffs. Attal stressed that “the battle must be fought in Europe,” and reiterated that the agricultural crisis would not be resolved “in a few days.” “We’ll go even further,” he asserted, adding that he would enshrine “food sovereignty” in law.

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He mentioned “new support measures” in the “very next few days.” He also agreed to meet again with the FNSEA on Tuesday evening, with farmers still mobilized across the country. Attal’s speech offered “no long-term perspective” for the farming world, according to the Confédération Paysanne farmers’ union, which has called for “a ban on purchasing agricultural products at below cost price,” and for a blockade of retailers’ central purchasing offices. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Coordination Rurale farmers’ union, continued on its way to blockade the Rungis International Market – the largest wholesale market in Europe, which supplies the whole Paris region.

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