World News

French farmers protest against low earnings, deplore high suicide rate

PARIS (Reuters) - French farmers hung dozens of inflatable dummies clad in overalls from nooses in trees in Paris on Thursday in a protest against a squeeze on earnings they say is suffocating the agricultural industry.

Farming union representatives have this week been in talks with retail giants. The unions say farmers are not earning enough to cover costs. Retailers argue consumers cannot afford to pay more.

A law passed by President Emmanuel Macron’s government in 2019, which aimed to give farmers a fairer share of profits, has failed to dispel their discontent over modest revenues.

“Agriculture in France is in a tragic situation,” said farmer and union leader Max Bauer.

Bauer said farmers were killing themselves every week as a result of the crisis gripping their sector and that 1,500 farms were going out of business in the country each year.

One French farmer took his or her own life every two days, according to a 2018 report by Public Health France. Suicide rates were 20% higher among farmers than the national average, and 30% among dairy farmers, a parliamentary report in 2019 showed.

“One in three farmers receive less than 835 euros ($1,000) (in monthly salaries), with state aid included,” Bauer said.

France is the largest agricultural producer in the European Union and the biggest beneficiary of subsidies under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

Editing by Richard Lough and Janet Lawrence