The Prime Minister of France, Gabriel Attal, announced this Friday afternoon (26), in a meeting with farmers in the Toulouse region, in the south, a series of measures meeting the demands of “angry farmers”, as they were nicknamed producers who have been demonstrating against the government in recent days.
Hours later, however, the president of FNSEA (National Federation of Farmers’ Unions), the country’s largest agricultural union, stated that he and his peers were not satisfied. “We have made the decision to continue this mobilization,” Arnaud Rousseau told TF1 television channel.
“The Prime Minister’s announcements do not answer all the questions we have asked. There are many demands that he has not responded to. What was said tonight does not calm the anger, we need to go further,” said Rousseau.
The main measure taken by the government to acquiesce farmers was the end of the gradual increase in the tax on GNR (gasoil non routier), or non-road diesel, mandatory fuel for agricultural machinery in the country.
Her announcement was made by Attal in person, in a corral on a farm in Montastruc-de-Salies, near the Spanish border, under the eyes of at least 36 cows and with a pile of hay serving as his pulpit.
“We are going to stop this trajectory of increasing the GNR,” said Attal, thus giving in to one of the farmers’ main demands. The legislation in force under Emmanuel Macron’s government establishes —or established— an annual increase in this tax until January 2030.
The system works like this: the farmer buys a liter of GNR for €1.29 (R$6.88), of which €0.25 (R$0.33) is tax. After the purchase, he can request a refund of the fees and receive back around €0.18 (R$0.96).
The current law — which sought to equate taxes on agricultural GNR with those charged on common fuel — provided for the reduction, year by year, of this amount to be reimbursed. Thus, if it were maintained until 2030, in that year the farmer would pay the same €0.25 in tax and receive back just €0.01 (R$0.05).
The Prime Minister also announced that, at least “until the summer” (June to August, in Europe), tax refunds will be deducted at the time of purchase, and no longer after receipt, in an attempt to simplify the process. . The exemption “will be made immediately,” he said.
In his speech, Attal also criticized the European Union-Mercosur agreement, warning that France will not sign it. “I say it again here, very clearly: the President of the Republic has always opposed him, and we continue and will continue to do so.”
Mercosur and the EU have been negotiating this agreement for at least 20 years. Today, what prevents its signature are above all environmental issues. French farmers, however, complain that the text would favor South American agriculture and cause losses due to the risk of unfair competition. France is the largest agricultural producer in the European Union.
After the meeting, Gabriel Attal went to a roadblock on the A64 road. Nearby, in Agen, a dead wild boar was hung in front of a labor inspector’s office.
On the A13, which connects the northwest of the country to Paris, around 50 farmers warned even before the FNSEA president’s statement that they had not been moved by the announced measures and would continue to block the road for at least more tonight.
Jérôme Canival, who farms land in Surtauville, told Le Monde newspaper that going to Paris didn’t seem like a good idea. “I went there three times on a tractor, there’s no point. They’re great photos, but we’re just an attraction.” On the other hand, another farmer, Matteo Legrand, told the Reuters news agency that he was in favor of going to the capital “to show our anger, our complaints”.
According to a document seen by Reuters, the FNSEA plans to install 11 roadblocks on the main suburban axes around Paris, including the A6, A10 and A13 highways.
Earlier, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire stated that “the central issue is farmers’ income”, adding that the government would guarantee fair prices for them.
Le Maire spent months pressuring food giants, such as Carrefour and Danone, to lower their prices for the end consumer, in an attempt to cope with rising inflation.
This has raised the ire of agricultural producers, who say they are facing financial difficulties and feel that their livelihoods are being threatened.
Now the minister has promised to be “merciless” with the same giants to help ensure adequate financial compensation for farmers.
With the European elections in June just a few months away, farmers’ outrage is a cause for concern for Macron, who fears the sector’s growing support for the far right ahead of the European Parliament elections. Marine Le Pen’s National Reunion party currently leads the polls with 29% of the vote, while Macron’s Renaissance party has 20% of the votes.