French Farmers Block Roads and Burn Tires to Protest Low Prices

January 25, 2016 02:33 PM

French farmers are using tractors and burning tires to block roads in Brittany and prevent access to the port city of La Rochelle to protest low prices they say are putting them out of business.

More than 100 farmers, many of them livestock breeders, on Monday closed highway RN165 near the city of Lorient in the west, said Thierry Coue, head of the regional chapter of farm union FNSEA. In La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast, about 100 livestock farmers and grain producers blocked entry to the city from the east, said local FNSEA chairman Francois Avrard.

Insolvencies for French livestock farms last year rose to the highest since at least 1998, led by beef cattle and dairy producers, according to data analysis firm Altares. French raw-milk prices dropped 17 percent in the past two years, while beef prices that farmers say don’t cover costs have fallen 3.5 percent in the period, European Union data show. The declines came as rising milk output in Europe and New Zealand coincided with a slowdown in Chinese dairy demand, while growth in beef production has outpaced usage.

“Incomes are catastrophic, particularly in red meat and milk,” Coue said. “Today it’s no longer a crisis, this is social distress. People are at the end of their wits.”

While blockades in June prompted industry negotiations and an agreement by slaughterers to pay more for beef, prices for the meat have dropped since August. Livestock farmers in Brittany are going out of business, and protests will continue in the next few days, Coue said.

The blockade around La Rochelle, the nation’s second-biggest grain port, isn’t scheduled to extend beyond today, Avrard said. Grain loading hasn’t been affected, according to silo operator Sica Atlantique.

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