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French farmers block Toulouse ringroad in EU subsidy cuts protest

Farmers from the FDSEA union slow down traffic on the Toulouse ring road on Wednesday
Farmers from the FDSEA union slow down traffic on the Toulouse ring road on Wednesday PASCAL PAVANI / AFP

Protesting farmers brought the ringroad of France's fourth-largest city to a halt in a protest against a possible cut in European Union subsidies on Wednesday. Meanwhile in Paris, the government unveiled proposals to ensure they get a fair price for their produce from big supermarket chains.

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There were traffic jams on the ringroad of Toulouse, the south-western city that is home to the headquarters of European planemaker Airbus, from 6.30am as more than 100 tractors blocked commuters.

Farmers from across the region set fire to piles of tyres, palettes and hay and grilled sausages for picnics on the motorway under the watchful eye of the police.

In a joint statement, two unions accused the government of "laughing at farmers" because of plans to reduce the number of "less favoured agricultural areas", which are entitled to EU subsidies.

The government has proposed a reduction of 100 such zones in the Haute Garonne département around Toulouse.

Protesters claimed the move could deprive them of as much as 7,000 euros a year.

The new classification is to be decided on 15 February and come into effect in the spring.

Agribusiness bill to tackle retailers

Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert presented a bill that aims to guarantee realistic prices to farmers when they sell to big retailers, as well as promote healthy and environmentally friendly foods.

The bill would reverse the usual bidding process by supermarket chains to allow farmers to propose prices and raise the limit on reductions to 34 percent of final value to stop retailers squeezing farm-gate prices.

The package, drawn up after a lengthy consultation process at the end of last year, will be presented to parliament at the end of March or the beginning of April.

On Tuesday, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire summoned the boss of the Intermarché supermarket chain to give him a dressing-down over the now-notorious Nutella sale that led to physical confrontations between shoppers last week.

"I told him that this must be stopped -- we can't have scenes like this every few days in France," Le Maire told RTL radio.

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