Britons join farm protest in France

DEFYING THE prevailing hostility in agricultural circles to all things Gallic, a group of British farmers took the unusual step yesterday of joining a demonstration by their Breton counterparts in a protest against falling poultry prices.

Fourteen Devon poultry breeders, who were in Brittany on a National Farmers' Union fact-finding mission, decided to raise protest banners in a gesture of support for around 200 French farmers who blocked a bridge at Morlaix, near Brest. The farmers lit fires by the road and released chickens in an angry response to French government plans to close down hundreds of poultry farms to cut the industry's chronic over-production.

"We are here to show our solidarity," one of the Devon farmers said, "because in Britain we are facing exactly the same problems as here in France."

France's poultry industry - nearly half of it based in Brittany - is in crisis, with food scares, falling demand, and plummeting prices threatening thousands of local jobs.

A particular target of the Bretons' wrath - as of farmers in other sectors across France - are the major food distribution chains which, they say, are reducing their profit-margins to non-existence. The British delegation agreed.

The farmers want government subsidies to modernise the industry, and the postponement of the action plan announced by the Agriculture Minister, Jean Glavany, in the summer, under which between 600 and 700 farms would be forced to close.