French PM calls on Brussels to increase support for farmers

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Amid increasing protests by French farmers Manuel Valls says EU has 'done too little, too late' in response to downturn in agricultural markets.

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France called on the European Commission on Monday to do more to help its struggling livestock industry, seeking to defuse protests that have seen farmers block roads and supermarkets, reports Reuters.

Speaking after a meeting with supermarket retailers about the farming situation, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the Commission had so far "done too little, too late," in response to a downturn in agricultural markets.

France had in particular called for "market regulation measures" in proposals submitted ahead of a meeting of European Union agriculture ministers later this month, he said.

The Commission, which manages the EU's common agricultural policy, last year granted 500 million euros ($556 million) in extra aid for farmers to counter falling prices and oversupply, partly linked to a Russian embargo on Western food imports.

But prices have continued to decline in some agricultural sectors, notably in dairy and pork, sparking fresh protests since the start of the year in France, where the government says 35,000 livestock farms are at risk of going bankrupt.

France has been calling for renewed efforts to lift a Russian sanitary embargo on EU pork - which pre-dated a broad ban on Western food imposed in August 2014. Valls said he would raise the issue with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting in Germany on Saturday.

Within France, the government is also discussing potential measures to help farmers with supermarket chains, economy minister Emmanuel Macron said after Monday's meeting.

Farmer groups regularly blame retailers for squeezing their margins and supermarket outlets are often targeted by protesting farmers.

Discussions with retailers would continue this week to look at the possibility of a special fund to offer liquidity to the worst-off livestock farmers, agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll said after the meeting.

Read more of this report from Reuters.

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