France’s minister of public services has hit out at vegetable farmers who set fire to a tax office in Brittany.
They were protesting over tax and administrative rules which are aggravating their cash-flow problems, according to AFP.
Around a hundred vegetable farmers, arriving on tractors, ransacked an agricultural mutual insurance building, before setting fire to the tax office, reported Reuters. They then headed to the town’s viaduct, where they set fire to a pile of artichokes, broccoli and potatoes.
French prime minister Manuel Valls vowed the perpetrators of the protest – which happened in Morlaix, Finistere – would be brought to justice.
Marylise Lebranchu, minister of public services, said: “It is unacceptable because it is an attack on public property, common property. It’s an attack on their neighbours, family. It’s an attack on firefighters too because they were stopped from reacting.
“I hear everything, the distress, the crisis, the proposals but I differentiate between expressions of distress, a demand for negotiations and violence.”
“There is a lot of distress in France,” added the former Finistere MP. “Imagine that every distress leads to violence, there would be no more order in the republic.”
Mme Lebranchu’s comments came after prosecutors in Brest appealed for witnesses to the blaze.
The violence comes ahead of a meeting on Wednesday – scheduled more than a week ago – between Stephane Le Foll, France’s agriculture minister, and Jean Francois Jacob, president of a group of vegetable growers in Finistere.
On Monday a vegetable producer reportedly declared on French radio: “If nothing changes this week what happened at Morlaix is just a starter”.
Angry farmers carried out protests last week, dumping vegetables that they were unable to sell at an acceptable price onto several main roads.
Picture: An earlier protest in Brittany – this time cauliflower flowers blocking a bridge in Morlaix.