PARIS--France's main farmer union leaders on Thursday called on their peers to lift roadblocks that have disrupted traffic across the country for more than two weeks, saying the government has listened to the protests and it was "time to go home".
"We say we should transform the action, by telling people they need to go home because there are also people who have jobs to do, there are also people who have been away from home for a very long time," Arnaud Rousseau, head of the FNSEA union, said. In his latest speech aimed at easing tensions with angry farmers, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal earlier said France would enshrine in law the principle that it should be self-reliant in food and it will tighten import controls. Attal, speaking at a press conference, also said the government will stop imposing stricter regulation on its farmers than European Union regulations require. "It makes no sense to ban pesticides in France before such decisions are taken on an EU level. We will end this practice," he said. Detailing his agenda to boost France's agricultural sector - Europe's largest - Attal said it was "out of the question" that France would agree to the Mercosur trade deal with Latin American countries. He also said France will step up safety checks on food imports, notably to make sure that imported foods do not have traces of pesticides that are banned in France or the EU. The finance ministry said the new emergency measures for the sector - focused largely on supporting struggling livestock farmers and wine producers - would cost 400 million euros ($434.36 million) plus 200 million euros in cash advances. Union leaders said after the speech that their call to end the roadblocks came with the condition that the promises be followed by concrete progress. They said they would give the government a three-week deadline until the start of France's giant Salon de l'Agriculture farming trade fare for the first results to show.