PARIS – France’s President Emmanuel Macron was greeted on Saturday with whistles of protest by farmers at his first visit since his inauguration to the 55th Agriculture Fair in Paris, an unmissable event on every French leader’s calendar that gives insight into the sector’s feelings towards the presidency.
As he arrived for last year’s edition of the fair, held when he was still a candidate, Macron was hit in the face with an egg, but this time he said he did not care at all what attitude he was met with during the tour.
He started his visit with a breakfast alongside union representatives, followed by a walk through some of the stands.
In an attempt to calm the agricultural sector’s fears, the president called on Thursday hundreds of farmers to the Élysée to assure them that a trade deal still in the works between the European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur would be good for the country’s economy.
He insisted to them that France would ensure imports of fresh duty-free meat were limited, products from factory farms were rejected and a safeguarding mechanism should the market become stabilized was established.
But many remained unconvinced, including Thibault Guybert, one of Saturday’s protesting farmers, who denounced on broadcaster BFM TV that Macron had spoken to them but not listened.
The National Federation of Agricultural Holders’ Unions (FNSEA) said this week that the trade deal could result in the closure of 20,000-25,000 farms throughout the country.
Farmers are also concerned by an upcoming revision of disadvantaged agricultural areas, which could see 1,380 municipalities removed from a mechanism that grants much-needed financial aid.