Almost 80 farmers arrested as protests blockade key food market, close in on Paris

French police on Wednesday detained scores of people who broke into the Paris region's main wholesale market complex during nationwide protests by farmers, the Créteil public prosecutor's office told AFP. The arrests came as convoys of tractors edged closer to Paris, Lyon and other key locations, with many ignoring police warnings over the scope of their action.

Defying warnings by the authorities, some farmers converged on the Rungis wholesale market outside of Paris where almost 80 people were arrested when some individuals penetrated the complex.

The French government has generally struck a conciliatory tone during more than a week of protests. But it had also warned that actions at Rungis, which provides food and other essentials to much of the Paris region of 12 million people, and other key infrastructure such as Paris airports, would cross a red line.

France has been at the centre of growing rural discontent across Europe, with protests also held in Germany, Poland, Romania, Belgium and Italy, putting pressure also on the EU for protections.

Amid mounting calls for higher incomes, less red tape and protection from foreign competition, "there are huge expectations" among farmers, said Arnaud Rousseau, head of France's largest agricultural union the FNSEA.

But he added that not all of the demands could be immediately answered "so I'm trying to call for calm and reasonableness".

French 'exception'

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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