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France To Help Cauliflower Farmers

April 18, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Some 1,500 cauliflower farmers ended a four-day blockade of a bridge on a key Britanny highway late Friday, after France’s agriculture minister Promised aid to soften the blow of falling prices.

Louis Le Pensec said the aid would be provided on a case-by-case basis to those farmers hit hardest. He refused to say how much money would be distributed.

The minister also said the future of French fruit and vegetable farmers will be discussed at a meeting May 15.

Laurent Lievre, a spokesman for the farmers in Britanny, said late Friday the blockade had been lifted in a show of ``total confidence″ in their leaders at the Paris talks.

Farmers in the western region of Brittany have been protesting for a week over the government’s failure to take action as the price of cauliflower has dropped below production costs.

The farmers have dumped tons of their crop across roadways and railways, set bonfires and vandalized train equipment, causing transport delays throughout the region. On Thursday, they occupied the runway of the Lannion airport, interrupting air traffic.

Some 1,500 farmers were still blocking a major bridge on Friday. They said they waiting for their leaders to return from Paris before deciding whether to end their protest.

In Paris, Thierry Merret, a leader of the Brittany farmers union, said Le Pensec had taken ``significant″ steps to meeting farmers’ demands.

The farmers say they need higher subsidies to be able to compete with Italian and Spanish cauliflower producers. They also argue that high French taxes make them less competitive.

The French government is committed to keep down the budget deficit to qualify for the new single European currency, meaning it does not have much extra money available for the farmers.

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