Farmers blockade of Paris leaves 1 dead

2013-11-21 17:44
Gendarmes. (Laurent Cipriani, AP)

Gendarmes. (Laurent Cipriani, AP)

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Paris -The French government on Thursday ordered irate farmers blocking roads into Paris to halt their protest over tax hikes after it caused accidents that left one person dead and six injured.

Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier called for the "immediate lifting" of the blockade which caused a crash that killed a car driver.

The victim was a fireman who was on his way to work before dawn and crashed his car into a truck forming part of a barricade.

Six people suffered mild injuries in a second accident involving a farmer's truck and an anti-riot police vehicle, the minister's office said.

Cuvillier said the lifting of the barriers was a "question of responsibility and security".

"I have been told that horses have been seen on a highway in the Yvelines" a region west of Paris, he said on Europe 1 radio.

Complaints

Two unions from the Paris region, the FDSEA and JA, had announced a "blockade" on Paris to "make the voice of the agriculture sector, which has been sacrificed, heard".

They complained their members were being "bludgeoned" by tax rises as well as by "more and more demanding environmental norms, increasing checks and stronger regulatory mechanisms".

Damien Griffin, the head of the FDSEA spearheading the protest, said the farmers had out of "compassion" lifted a barrier where the fatal accident occurred but told AFP the protesters were not responsible for the fireman's death.

He said the union was particularly upset over the reallocation of subsidies to help cattle farmers at the expense of grain producers which would see the latter "see a fall in income of between 30% and 40%".

"They are going to massacre arable and dairy farming," he said.

The unions are also calling for the resignation of Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll. Many held up placards spelling out this demand while others read: "We are being mowed down like wheat."

‘Open to dialogue’

Le Foll insisted the government was open to dialogue.

But there was "no question" of going back on the reallocation of subsidies, he said.

French President Francois Hollande announced in October that the government would use a renegotiation of the EU's Common Agriculture Policy to favour livestock farmers badly hit by the economic crisis over the better-off crop growers.

He said France would use measures including a subsidy bonus on the first 52ha of each farm, seen as favouring smaller livestock farms over giant grain producers.

French police had earlier said several key highways would be affected and advised motorists not to take the A6 linking Paris to the eastern city of Lyon and the A10 which connects the capital to Bordeaux.

Amid mounting outrage over planned tax raises, Hollande's government has already been forced to suspend the planned introduction of a new environmental "ecotax" on commercial vehicles carrying cargo more than 3.5 tons after violent protests in Brittany, a predominantly agricultural region in northern France.

Opponents of the tax, which critics say unfairly penalises remote areas dependent on deliveries by road freight, are demanding it be scrapped altogether.


Read more on:    francois hollande  |  france

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