France delays food price rise for farmers after protests

Measures were aimed at increasing farmers' income

Protesters wearing yellow vests, the symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel prices, occupy a roundabout in Cissac-Medoc, France on Wednesday. The slogan in pink reads "Urgent, purchase power, dignity for all." (Photo: Reuters/Regis Duvignau)

Paris | Reuters — France, reeling from violent protests over the cost of living, said Wednesday it will delay a planned rise in minimum food prices, incurring the wrath of the main farmers group which urged street action next week.

A powerful constituency in French politics, farmers have long complained of being hit by a price war between retailers, which has benefited consumers but hurt producers.

A “field-to-fork” law adopted early last month sought to ease the burden. One of the key measures, a 10 per cent increase in the price floor for food products, was initially due to be adopted at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

But Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said mass demonstrations led by the so-called “yellow vest” movement, convulsing the country since Nov. 17, had forced the government to postpone the decision.

“This was postponed because of other issues,” Guillaume told CNews TV, referring to the widespread protests over fuel taxes which have dominated the government’s agenda.

The minister said the decision would be implemented by the government in January or February, before the end of annual price negotiations with supermarkets that started last month.

The government’s spokesman later said the measures would be presented again “in the next weeks,” with one government source citing the date of Dec. 19.

It remained unclear when the measures could be implemented.

Farmers to protest

France’s largest farm union FNSEA had warned farmers would see a delay in the adoption of the measures as a “disastrous signal.” The union on Wednesday called for protests all next week to denounce the delay as well as excessive taxes and what they call increasing hostility towards farmers.

“We are not joining the movement of yellow vests, we will express the difficulties specific to the agricultural sector,” an FNSEA spokeswoman told Reuters.

French retailers federation FCD, which includes big names like Carrefour and Casino, also urged the government to adopt the measures as fast as possible because they needed time to adapt, stressing the need to implement them before the close of negotiations with suppliers.

The “yellow vest” protests began last month with the aim of highlighting the squeeze on household spending from increased taxes on fuel, but have tapped into growing discontent over President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership.

Selling at a loss is forbidden in France. It has set a level, called “resale at a loss threshold,” below which retailers are not allowed to sell a product.

The government intends to raise that floor by 10 per cent and limit discounts to 34 per cent of a product’s price and to 25 per cent of available volumes.

Analysts say the measures, to be applied for a two-year trial period, would reduce aggressive price competition among French retailers and accelerate food inflation.

However, many retailers said the final impact on consumers’ total spending would be minimal.

Reporting for Reuters by Sybille de La Hamaide; additional reporting by Pascale Denis, Bate Felix and Dominique Vidalon.

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  • Monkeeworks

    As of this coming Saturday the French police are joining the protestors. The union says they are tired of taking the physical hits that their government leaders should be taking. Carbon taxes on everything, not just fuel. Brussels, and Copenhagen also rioting against carbon taxes. Germany halted a protest by knocking back carbon tax.
    The French rioters are saying no to carbon tax postponements. They demand cancellation of the carbon tax and withdrawal from the environment evolution.
    People not affected by carbon taxes are those that can afford to pay them. You can’t starve people into submission. That goes for any country. The first province in Canada that will be rioting will be BC. The premier just added enough tax to a new house it will put them past the highest cost per house ever. By 2030 every new house has to be a zero energy user. They should not have allowed pot smoking in the parliament of BC. Horgan has toked his brain out. The climate change evangelists have derailed.

COPA Medallion COPA finalist in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
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