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FRANCE

Hollande announces emergency plan on meat prices as farmers block French roads, bridges

Farmers block the road leading to the Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy
Farmers block the road leading to the Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy AFP

French President François Hollande has announced that an emergency plan to help livestock farmers will be discussed at Wednesday's cabinet meeting. Farmers on Tuesday blocked bridges and roads in protests at low prices of pork and beef that they say are driving them out of business.

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"The situation of livestock and milk producers is extremely difficult," Hollande declared Tuesday, as he announced that the cabinet would discuss the plan and called on buyers, notably supermarkets, to "fulfil their commitments" to raise prices.

Protesting farmers used their tractors to block access to the Normandy towns of Caen and Evreux, the Mont St Michel tourist attraction, several roads and two bridges across the River Seine on Tuesday.

There were other protests to the east, in Picardy, and in the south-west, where milk farmers blocked another tourist attraction, the Lascaux II cave.

After at first refusing to meet them until Thursday, Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll announced that he would visit protesters on Tuesday afternoon, ceding to their demand for an immediate meeting and to criticism from the right-wing opposition.

The plan will contain 16 or 17 measures, he said - one of them is expected to be help with paying interest on farmers' debts.

A government mediator was to report to Le Foll on Wednesday evening on where a June agreement to raise prices has broken down.

The supermarkets claim they have done as promised but, if they have, the money does not seem to be reaching the farmers.

Le Foll estimates that about 22,000 farms - about 10 per cent of the total - are threatened with bankruptcy.

As if all that was not enough, several hundred farmers demonstrated on Tuesday in the French Alps town of Gap, where Monday's Tour de France stage ended, to protest at the number of sheep killed by wolves in the area.

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