France farmer protests: Prime minister Gabriel Attal offers "key concessions" as farmers block motorways

Newly-appointed French prime minister Gabriel Attal. (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)Newly-appointed French prime minister Gabriel Attal. (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
Newly-appointed French prime minister Gabriel Attal. (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
Farmers have been using their tractors to block motorways in their ongoing battle against "red tape".

New French prime minister Gabriel Attal has been forced to make "key concessions" after farmers went on strike, shutting down long stretches of some of France’s major highways.

Protesting farmers used tractors to block and slow traffic and push the government into making growing and rearing food easier and more lucrative. Farmers are calling for less red tape and lower costs, as well as protection against cheap imports.

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In a visit to a cattle farm on the border with Spain yesterday (January 26) Attal vowed to "put an end" to rising diesel costs and "to put agriculture above all".

"You wanted to send a message, and I've received it loud and clear," he said,

"We will stop this Kafka-esque system. We will stop this planned trajectory of increasing tax on non-road diesel fuel. We have to open a new chapter, change the mentality - firstly that of the state."

Attal added that he will appeal to the EU against rules forcing farmers to keep some land fallow (unsowed) and will remain opposed to the free trade deal that farmers say will flood supermarkets with cheap produce.

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Farmer Nicolas Gallepin, who took part in a demonstration in his tractor at a roundabout south of Paris this week, said thickets of regulations that govern how food can be produced are swallowing up chunks of his time and that fuel costs are eating into his bottom line.

"We’ve seen, in the last 10 years, one good year in 2022, but that’s it. We’ve not been paid what we deserve in 10 years," he said. "What really hurts us is competing imports from other countries that don’t comply with the same regulations."

The yellow vest protests held France in their grip for months, starting among provincial workers camped out at traffic circles to protest fuel taxes and subsequently snowballing into a nationwide challenge to Macron’s government.

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