The organizers of the 60th International Agricultural Show, which starts on February 24, called on Tuesday politicians not to indulge in an “easy recovery from agricultural malaise” and visitors to moderate their alcohol consumption. After a show of force from the agricultural world, an expression of deep anger over the conditions of exercise of the profession, and despite isolated calls for a boycott, the Agricultural Show will take over the exhibition center as usual Parisian from the Porte de Versailles for ten days (February 24-March 3).
The event, which expects 600,000 visitors, was cited by the majority unions FNSEA and Young Farmers as a deadline in their standoff with the government. They are waiting, before its opening, for the materialization of the first commitments made in the urgency of the crisis, to obtain the lifting of the farmers' blockades.
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“I don't fear a somewhat hot living room, I believe in a studious living room,” declared its president, Jean-Luc Poulain, during a press conference. “Farmers have shown during the latest union actions that they know how to be responsible. It is also one of the keys to the success of the movement with public opinion,” he added.
Certainly, it will be a “political moment”, including the traditional visit of the President of the Republic, but the show must remain a “moment of conviviality” and “pride”, underlined last week the president of the FNSEA, Arnaud. Rousseau. “It’s a proud moment for farmers to be able to welcome all the Parisians and the people who come to see with their children, their family,” he said.
The Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau, for his part, estimated Tuesday, during the press conference, that this show will be the “moment (...) of a rediscovered bond of trust” with farmers. Jean-Luc Poulain hopes that political leaders, who generally come in large numbers to the show, especially as a deadline like the European elections in June approaches, are not in "an easy recovery from agricultural malaise, but bearers of exchanges and solutions beyond their own political interests.
“We, in the agricultural world, are not fools. We know well why some people come to the dams, or come to the farms,” he continued. The agricultural crisis which broke out in January saw the National Rally present itself as the “voice of the countryside” and denounce “Macron’s Europe” which wants “the death of our agriculture”.
Before being a political meeting, the show is a popular event, where city and country dwellers meet around a muse cow - the Normande Oreillette this year -, pâté and barrels of beer. To the point of sometimes taking on the appearance of a feria. Last year, the organizers had to call for preserving this “great popular festival” from the excesses of alcohol. They also closed early, on the last Saturday, for security reasons given the influx of visitors.
The organizers have planned to encourage visitors “to come during the week” rather than on the weekend and will “take a step forward” in preventing excessive inebriation to maintain a “quiet and friendly” show, explained Valérie Le. Roy, the event director. “We reserve the right to close the stand” of an exhibitor who continues to serve visibly drunk visitors despite warnings, she described.
The Agricultural Show has taken place every year in Paris since 1964, except in 2021, the edition canceled due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The event is owned by the National Center for Agricultural Exhibitions and Competitions (Ceneca), made up of major agricultural organizations, in particular the Unigrains investment fund, founded by French cereal growers, the FNSEA and its beet growers association CGB.
To succeed Jean-Luc Poulain, for whom this is the 15th and final show, the only declared candidate is Jérôme Despey, the “Mr. Vin” of the FNSEA, first vice-president of the majority union. The latter explained to AFP that if he is elected, it will be “not in the name of the FNSEA” but to “represent all the components of agriculture”. However, he will at the same time keep his functions within the majority union.