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Angry French farmers storm into agriculture fair in Paris

A group of French farmers stormed into a major Paris farm fair ahead of a planned visit by President Emmanuel Macron amid anger over costs, red tape and green regulations.

Facing dozens of police officers inside the trade fair, the farmers were shouting and booing, calling for the resignation of Macron and using expletives aimed at the French leader.

“This is our home!”, they shouted, as lines of French CRS riot police sought to contain the demonstration. There were some clashes with demonstrators and the police arrested at least one of them, a Reuters witness saw.

Pascal Beteille, one of the demonstrators said he did not expect anything from Macron’s visit.

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“This is our home and he’s welcoming us with CRS,” he told Reuters.

Macron, who met French farmers’ union leaders over breakfast, was scheduled to walk within the alleys of the trade fair afterwards.

“I’m saying this for all farmers: you’re not helping any of your colleagues by smashing up stands, you’re not helping any of your colleagues by making the show impossible, and in a way scaring families away from coming,” Macron told reporters after he met with union leaders.

French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by France’s Minister for Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Marc Fesneau, gestures as he speaks with members of the agricultural unions National Federation of Agricultural Holders’ Unions (FNSEA), Young Farmers (JA), Rural Coordination (CR) during the opening day of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l’Agriculture), in Paris, France, February 24, 2024. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS

The protests delayed the opening of the show to the public by at least an hour.

The French president said he would convene farmers’ union representatives and other stakeholders of the sector at the Elysee Palace in three weeks after he cancelled a debate he wanted to hold at the fair with farmers, food processors and retailers.

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He denied reports that he planned to invite the controversial environmentalist group Soulevements de la Terre to that debate, which had further stirred anger among French farmers.

An impromptu heated discussion between Macron and demonstrators was being broadcast live on French news channels.

The Paris farm show – a major event in France, attracting around 600,000 visitors over nine days – is a political fixture, where presidents and their opponents are expected to engage with the public under intense media scrutiny.

Farmers’ protests which have spread across Europe, have stoked concerns in France and beyond about their political fallout, given they represent a growing constituency for the far right, expected to make gains in European Parliament elections in June.

French farmers earlier this month largely suspended protests after Prime Minister Gabriel Attal promised new measures worth 400 million euros ($433 million).

But protests resumed this week to put pressure on the government to provide more help and deliver on promises, ahead of the Paris farm show.

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By STEPHANIE LECOCQ and MANUEL AUSLOOS

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