Macron offers tough love to French farmers telling them to 'invest more' rather than complain
French President Emmanuel Macron staked out a middle ground on Thursday ahead of a major farm show, urging farmers to invest more rather than complain about overseas competition, while also promising to protect them from foreign land buyers.
Macron invited hundreds of young farmers to the Elysee presidential palace before the annual Paris farm show this weekend, a politically important event which takes place just after farmers staged protests across France.
The government is facing discontent over issues including trade talks with South American countries and an overhaul of subsidies for disadvantaged farm belts, sapping goodwill created by legislative proposals for fairer farmgate prices.
“Let’s not be naive, we won’t fix our problems in a few months ... but I want to give French agriculture a future,” Macron told the young farmers.
Macron pledged to clamp down on farmland purchases by foreign buyers, highlighting access to land for young farmers as a vital issue as France faced the prospect of 40 percent of current farmers retiring by 2020.
“We cannot let hundreds of hectares be bought up by foreign powers without knowing what the aim of these purchases is,” he said in a speech. “We are therefore clearly going to put in place regulatory safeguards in this area.”
Macron was alluding to land deals in 2016 and 2017 that French farming groups and media have linked to Chinese fuel services group Hongyang.
While Chinese investors have acquired a number of wine estates and formed partnerships with dairy companies in France, the purchase of 2,600 hectares of cropland in central France over the past two years has hit a nerve.