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Farmers jeer Macron as tensions escalate at France's top agriculture show

A farmer tries to run while protesting at the opening of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture), in Paris on Saturday. The fair is being held amid months of demonstrations by farmers across Europe against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE
A farmer tries to run while protesting at the opening of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture), in Paris on Saturday. The fair is being held amid months of demonstrations by farmers across Europe against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE

Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Farmers in France leveled jeers at President Emmanuel Macron amid heightening tensions Saturday at the opening of the country's annual agricultural fair in Paris.

Macron was also forced to cancel a planned debate scheduled to take place in the evening with activists as farmers clashed with police ahead of the show's opening.

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The Salon de l'Agriculture is a massive annual event in France, attracting around 600,000 visitors over a nine-day period.

Farmers chanted "Macron resign" as he arrived at the event to preside over the opening ceremonies before heading to a closed-door breakfast with farmers.

The president announced the debate's cancellation Friday evening in a post on X, signing off by saying he is "proud of our agriculture and our farmers."

The unions representing French farmers indicated they would not appear for the scheduled debate, prompting food processors and retailers to also skip the event.

The shelved debate was to revolve around the country's embrace of European Union agricultural policies and what farmers call unfair business practices, including low wages and outside competition.

Macron did propose a new round-table discussion in three weeks time between himself and the country's main farming unions.

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"Since day one, I've been at the side of our farmers. Over the past few years, we've made major progress together. We have faced a crisis of confidence, income and recognition," Macron told reporters Saturday following the closed-door breakfast.

But he closed on a more sober note.

"We have to be both humble and clear-sighted: We can't solve the farming crisis in a few hours. It won't be resolved today or during the show," Macron said.

In late January, French farmers proposed tractor barricades and siege of Paris over their grievances, but the action was called off at the last minute.

The group Les Soulèvements de la Terre was also one of the groups expected to debate with Macron Saturday. The environmental collective has had previous clashes with police and farmers over climate change issues.

The group revealed at a news conference Thursday it was banned by the Macron government from last year's event.

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