Why French Farmers are Protesting and Why I Support Them

Written – January 2024

Anybody that knows me will know full well that I’m not a person that supports strikes and industrial action.  I find that often the asks are unreasonable, and that strikes are actively encouraged by union leaders, not so much because it’s in the best interests of the workers, but because it’s in the best interest of the union leaders who know they can gain more personal influence from them.

You also have to consider that the French are well known for protesting and striking at the drop of a hat, it’s almost like a national sport and in some countries like the UK and Belgium (I can definitely imagine this in Belgium) it’s seen as a bit of a joke, which makes it less likely that people outside France will take French people protesting seriously.

In France at the moment, the country I’ve chosen as my new home, farmers are blocking roads and protesting right across the country.  Indeed I was out with some neighbours only today and we had to divert because the main artery between our homes and our destination was closed due to tractors and other farm equipment having been placed so as to block the road.

I wholeheartedly support these protests though, and I want the farmers to win!  You might suggest that this is because I live in the middle of rural farming country, and therefore I have become sympathetic to the farmers.  That’s not correct though.  I’m supporting the farmers because I believe exactly as they do.

There’s a very good article here from Reuters that I recommend you read, as it very succinctly explains the reasons for the protests.  There are a few reasons but the two that are most important to me are the amount of money farmers are being paid for food, primarily from the major supermarket chains, and also because they are being undercut by cheaper foods being shipped and flown in from around the world.

I wrote an article about exactly this only last month.  I am making a conscious effort to buy my food and other household goods from local producers and then small, independent businesses based in France.  The reasons for this are to help keep money in my local community, and to support small businesses rather than major corporations.  There’s also an important climate argument to this, with the shipping and flying of food around the world when it’s simply not necessary, contributing in a large way to climate change.

Regards the supermarkets, they have been abusing their power and position with farmers now for decades, and everybody knows it.  This isn’t just happening in France, but in the UK, across Europe, and further afield too in places such as the USA.  It’s a merciless and vampiric business practice that really needs to be stamped out.  It’s not done for the wellbeing of farmers, consumers, or the wider world.  It’s done purely for profit.

So the next time you go to your local supermarket to buy fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy or other products, ask yourself if you could instead buy these from a local market.  If they’re not grown in your area, they’re almost certainly grown in your own country where they can be.  In doing this you’re helping keep money in your local community, and in your own country, rather than it being shipped around the world in global share dividends.

Support the farmers, support your local community, fight climate change, and get a good nights sleep in the process.  What could possibly be bad about that?