French farmers to protest as Macron battles ‘yellow vest’ movement

French farmers from the "Coordination Rurale" stand next to a sign reading, "Stop importing palm oil, which slims the farmers and fattens our stomachs" as they protest against the use of palm oil in the Nutella recipe in front of the Ferrero plant in Villers-Ecalles, northwestern France, on November 27, 2018. (AFP)

The announcement from the main agricultural union comes as France’s President Emmanuel Macron approved a six-month suspension of fuel tax a day earlier in a move to end violent “yellow vest” protests.

French farmers said on Wednesday that they will stage a series of protests next week, adding to President Emmanuel Macron’s woes as the “yellow vest” anti-tax movement rocks the country.

The farmers’ grievances include financial charges on their operations, the head of the main agricultural union told AFP.

“No specific day has been set, it’s for the week,” Christiane Lambert said of the farmer protests.

She said the farmers were not officially joining the “yellow vests,” a grassroots uprising that has shunned alignments with political parties or labour unions.

“They want an apolitical movement, without unions, and I respect that,” she said, adding that farmers were facing “specific problems.”

She accused the government of “agri-bashing” by imposing new regulations such as requiring farmers to declare when they use glyphosate, a weedkiller suspected by some scientists of causing cancer.

“Farmers feel humiliated,” Lambert said.

Many are also worried after Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said on Wednesday that measures aimed at improving their negotiating power with distributors would be delayed as the government grapples with the “yellow vest” movement.

The measures aim to prevent distributors and retailers from selling at a loss and limit price wars that farmers say are squeezing their margins to the limit.

They were supposed to be approved at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday and come into effect on January 1.

But they may now be delayed until later in the month or February, Guillaume said.

“It’s delayed, but there must not be any retreat by the government,” Lambert said.

“The important thing is that it can be applied as of January 1,” she said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies