Two weeks ago, the French agricultural sector began protesting against the country’s policies and those of the European Union, impacting the industry. The rise in prices and minimal profits have fueled their resistance. In an attempt to change their situation, hundreds of truck drivers from Malaga, who daily cross the border to transport goods to Europe, are facing disruptions, particularly due to roadblocks on highways.
The boycott on Spanish products is also translating into attacks on trucks. “One of our drivers, loaded with apples from Italy, had two pallets thrown off and a fire extinguisher emptied by farmers while crossing France,” stated David Merino, owner of the freight transport company Eurobiotrans. This incident occurred on January 25th near the French city of Aix-en-Provence. “That cargo is completely lost because it’s no longer consumable,” he lamented.
Furthermore, the blockades are causing delays in deliveries. Merino criticized, “Another driver of mine was carrying frozen lamb meat to Le Havre (France), but he was stopped in Poitiers and was stuck there for two days. He was supposed to unload last Friday but couldn’t do it until this Monday.”
Javier Rando, an independent trucker, hasn’t been detained at a picket so far. However, with highways blocked, he had no choice but to use secondary roads. “I was supposed to unload in Rotterdam (Netherlands) in the morning, and now I’ll have to do it in the afternoon.” He transports mandarins, and the receiving company was already informed of the delay due to the French farmers’ protests.
Jesús Marfil, co-owner of Transmarfil, asserted that “a journey that used to take 24 hours now exceeds 48.” He complained, “We’re even experiencing accidents because the roads the trucks have to pass through are very narrow.” This situation results in higher fuel expenses and, inevitably, financial losses. Additionally, Marfil mentioned, “If a driver used to do six trips before, now he only does three because it takes twice as long.” This, he claimed, has led to a daily economic loss exceeding 12,000 euros for his company.
It’s worth noting the accusations made by representatives of the French government, such as Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who recently announced new measures to counter alleged unfair competition, pointing fingers at foreign farmers, including Spaniards and Italians. These statements were not well-received in Spain, prompting some ministers to defend the Spanish agricultural sector, including Agriculture Minister Luis Planas, who emphasized that EU rules are similar for all member countries, stating, “There is no competitive advantage derived from applying different standards.”
Attal’s comments were joined by statements from former French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal. On BFM TV, she accused Spanish tomatoes of being “fake organic” and mixing them with French tomatoes in supermarkets as “deceiving the consumer.” She claimed that French agriculture makes efforts for quality and food safety by reducing environmentally harmful pesticides. She labeled Spanish organic products as “fake” and non-compliant with French regulations, specifically targeting tomatoes: “Have you ever tasted Spanish organic tomatoes? They are inedible.”
Reactions to the former minister’s remarks were swift. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez defended the Spanish tomato, inviting Royal to “try any variety of Spanish tomatoes” and see that “the Spanish tomato is unbeatable.”
Fifteen Farmers Arrested in Protests
Fifteen French farmers were arrested on Wednesday for obstructing vehicle traffic near the Rungis wholesale market, south of Paris, according to authorities. Another three, who had also been detained, were released shortly afterward. The French Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, estimated a hundred blockades across the country with a total of 10,000 protesters. Darmanin emphasized firm action to protect the Paris wholesale market, the largest in Europe, crucial for the capital’s supplies and much of the country, as well as the two airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly. “If they try to enter Rungis, we will stop them,” said the minister, who ordered the deployment of police tanks to halt tractors heading to the market, located about 15 kilometres south of the capital. This is the goal set by a convoy of tractors that departed from Agen in the south on Monday, detained for a few hours on a bridge over the Loire, 80 kilometres from its destination, by Gendarmerie agents. Police armoured vehicles are also present at other protest points, such as Chennevières on the A1 highway.