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France’s two key farming unions suspend protest

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France’s two major farming unions have announced they will suspend protests and lift road blockades across the country.

The president of Young Farmers union, Arnaud Gaillot, spoke alongside the head of France’s biggest farming union, FNSEA, on Thursday and said “we call on our members to suspend the blockades”.

The move came after France’s prime minister announced a new set of measures to address concerns of farmers who have been protesting for days across the country over low wages, heavy regulation and unfair competition from abroad.

Gabriel Attal’s speech came as convoys with hundreds of angry farmers driving heavy-duty tractors created chaos outside the European Union’s headquarters, demanding leaders at an EU summit provide relief from rising prices and bureaucracy.

“The question is currently being asked throughout Europe: is there a future for our agriculture? Of course, the answer is yes,” Mr Attal said.

Mr Attal said there will be no new pesticide ban “without a solution” and said no pesticides would be banned in France that are authorised elsewhere in the EU.

He also said France was banning, starting immediately, imports of fruits and vegetables from outside the EU that have been treated with Thiacloprid, an insecticide currently banned in the bloc.

France will propose the creation of a “European control force” to combat fraud, he said, particularly regarding health regulations, and fight against import of food products that go against European and French health standards.

He also said France would remain opposed to the EU signing a free-trade deal with the Mercosur trade group. “There is no question of France accepting this treaty,” he said.

He also announced 150 million euros (£128 million) in aid to livestock farmers and a decrease in taxes on farms being transferred from older generations to younger ones.

Agriculture minister Marc Fesneau announced a two billion euro (£1.7 billion) package to make loans for those who are setting up as farmers.

The French government has also doubled numbers of controls to sanction food industrial groups and supermarkets that do not comply with a 2018 law meant to pay a fair price to farmers.

The fine can reach up to 2% of sales revenues to companies that do not comply.

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