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France

French press review 29 February 2016

media DR

The crisis in France's farming industry is all over today's front pages, as French farmers expressed their anger at the government at the opening of the Salon de l'Agriculture this week-end. 

Le Monde opens the week with an unflattering article on François Hollande, after the president was heckled at the farming fair in Paris on Saturday.

The yearly showcase of France's farming goods kicked off to a controversial start, as farmers and meat producers protested against what they consider to be unfair prices imposed by the country's biggest supermarket chains.

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Le Monde reminds its readers that Hollande, who used to be an MP in the rural region of Corrèze in central France, had once made farming one of his main priorities.

But the paper says he is now coming up against the harsh reality of the European free market, where industrial producers are wanting to do away with price quotas, certificates and expensive norms, whilst French producers struggle to compete.

The government has unlocked 825 million euros to help farmers and put pressure on Brussels to maintain seven billion euros in European subsidies but Le Monde says the government is out of its depth.

The Salon de l'Agriculture used to be a pleasant walkabout for France's president, the chance to pose with animals and mingle with an enthusiastic crowd but milk and meat producers hurled insults at Hollande as he arrived on Saturday, and even destroyed the stand set up for France's agriculture ministry.

France's conservative paper Le Figaro also dedicates its main headline to the farming crisis and draws the same conclusion as Le Monde, that the government is powerless.

Le Figaro says the farmers are facing unprecedented difficulties.

Large-scale industrial production, Russia's embargo on European products and a decrease in Chinese consumption have all resulted in prices dropping to a level which French farmers can no longer sustain.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The paper also points out that, according to a recent opinion poll, 87 per cent of French people support the protests, which means the government faces yet another sensitive issue ahead the 2017 presidential elections.

In its editorial left-wing Libération doesn't blame the government but our industrial model of farming, which is based on huge subsidies to keep up excessive production.

"Quantity at the cost of quality," it says, "no longer corresponds to the consumers' needs or expectations."

According to Libération, the whole system of industrial farming will have to change in the years to come.

In the short term this will be bad news for many farmers, as they struggle to adapt but the paper has a surprisingly optimistic approach to the question, as it tries to show that the future will be all about small-scale, local and organic production.

Libération has a few arguments up its sleeve, too, and in the four pages dedicated to the farming question, complete with graphics, the paper shows how the consumers' are shifting towards more ethical and sustainable habits.

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