Thousands of tractors – and a few cows - converged on the French capital near the busy Place de la Nation (east of Paris) around 9 am to denounce the falling prices which they blame on foreign competition, as well as supermarkets and distributors.
Most farmers came from the northwestern region of Brittany and Normandy, some major producers of milk and pork.
“We want income, prices sufficient simply to pay our bills,” said Emmanuel Bernard a farmer from the Burgundy region.
“Over the past several months, years, we haven't been able to make it, our production costs are too high and our sales prices no longer correspond to what we need to survive", he added.
Although the government in July unveiled an emergency package worth 600 million euros in tax relief and loan guarantees, farmers are facing increasingly slim margins they blame on cheap imports and high payroll charges, which they say make them unable to compete against Germany, much less Eastern Europe or beyond.
Leading French farmers’union FNSEA, which seeks EU action to level the playing field with neighbouring countries, said it will hand over to the French National Assembly later on Thursday “the demands and grievances of an agricultural and rural world that is on the brink of exploding and that expects a lot from its national representatives.”
The demonstration comes after months of unrest as farmers in the dairy and meat industries have become increasingly desperate in the face of falling revenues.
The agriculture minister has estimated that 10 per cent of farms in France (22,000) are close to bankruptcy with a combined debt of one billion euros.
An extraordinary EU meeting is scheduled on Monday in Brussels.