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French Farmer Youth fight petroleum hikes: riot police

"Jeunes agriculteurs" (Young Farmers) are demanding tax free petrol for agriculture and for the government to control distribution of petroleum in France.

Other Jeunes agriculteurs blockaded the petroleum depot in Frontignan, France, where about 100 farmers engaged with 50 riot police (la Compagnie républicaine de sécurité, CRS). One member of the CRS and one young farmer were injured. The blockaders had barricaded the road leading to the depot with burning tyres, palates and plastic rubbish. The farmers came from all over the Languedoc-Roussillon region and were responding to calls from the Regional Centre of Young Farmers (Centre regional des jeunes agriculteurs - CRJA)

"Fishermen, farmers, it's the same battle", said Xavier Fabre, Vice-President of the Launguedoc-Roussillon region of the CRJA. "We also use gasoline. One year ago we were paying 40 to 50 centimes a litre and today we pay one euro the litre. [That's about $2.00 Australian or US] It is costing us 50 euros a day to run a tractor.

(Fishermen protesting oil prices continue to be active in France. On Wednesday they were giving out pamphlets in Sète, France, to educate people about their problems. And fishermen from Grau-du-Roi in Gard caused traffic jams for 11 km on the A9 freeway near Monpellier.)

In Toulouse a large group of Young Farmers successfully blocked deliveries to and from the local petroleum depot. They have said that they will continue their blockade until tomorrow and that if the government fails to accede to their demands, they will go further in their actions.

The rise in petroleum prices, for farmers, also entails the costs of fertiliser, which is made mostly from petroleum gas.
In France, to fertilise 100,000 ha the costs have risen by 15,000 euros (approx 30,000AUD/USD).

In Britanny on the road to Bordeaux, there was an operation escargot - (operation snail), i.e. a slow drive to make the point about hardship and petroleum prices, with truckies joining farmers in a convoy of slowly driving vehicles, blowing their horns.

In Bulgaria there were similar protests. In Taiwan queues formed on the roads to gas stations after the government announced that the prices were going up. Thousands of drivers queued up all night to fill their tanks.

Without the cheap fertiliser that comes from plentiful petroleum, most of the enormous gains in production made in the last 50 years, which have permitted human economies to support enormous populations, will disappear. We can see signs of this whole economic structure fraying in the food riots in poor countries, the profiteering over state-subsidised 'biofuel' production in the US (fatal for soils, which are everyone's greatest wealth), the organised protests in France, and, most arcanely, the ridiculous and pathetic arguments over minor tax relief at the bowser in Australia. Question to all: Does Australia have even stupider politicians than the USA?

Sheila Newman

Sources: France2 Infos, 20hs, 28-5-08 and Romandie News, "Dépôt pétrolier de Frontignan: les CRS délogent agriculteurs et pêcheurs"

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