French President Emmanuel Macron was greeted with boos and whistles at the opening of the Paris Agricultural Fair on Saturday by angry farmers who blame him for not doing enough to support them.

Macron was scheduled to visit the event, which draws crowds of visitors every year. But before the official opening, several dozen protesters forced their way through security barriers and entered the site as the president was arriving.

Farmers have been protesting for months across France, including Paris, to demand better living conditions, simpler regulations and better protection against foreign competition they see as unfair.

Police in full riot gear were deployed at the Paris Agricultural Fair to prevent them from getting close to Macron, who had a planned meeting with the heads of France’s main farmers’ unions.

Meanwhile, protesters chanted slogans calling for Macron to “resign” and blew into whistles to show their anger.

“We won’t be able to respond to the farming crisis in a few hours,” Macron said. “It has taken months, years of work for those who came here to present their cattle, their work … This fair must go well and calmly.”

Three weeks ago, farmers lifted roadblocks around Paris and elsewhere around the country after the government offered more than 400 million euros ($433 million) in aid and tax breaks.

“Anger can be expressed,” Macron said, warning against any “violence.”

The French president decided to meet with groups of protesters in a separate room. He promised “floor prices” will be established for each product to “guarantee farmers’ income.” He also said an emergency plan to financially relieve the most struggling farms will start being implemented on Monday.

Macron said a meeting will be held at the Elysee presidential palace in March to build “a plan for the future of farming” with farmers’ unions and other key players in the food industry.

One farmer asked the president to say “in front the cameras you are going to give oxygen to the farmers … Do that and I guarantee you will calm everyone down.”

Macron answered: “You have grievances. You do not have a government that’s completely deaf … It’s not true that nothing’s been done.”

He later officially inaugurated the fair, an opening delayed by several hours because of the protest.

Macron then mingled with farmers presenting their cattle and products, starting with Normandy cows and camembert cheese — while protesters could still sporadically be heard loudly whistling.

The move come as farmers across Europe are protesting against EU agriculture policies, bureaucracy and overall business conditions.

Farmers complain that the 27-nation bloc’s environmental policies, such as the Green Deal, which calls for limits on the use of chemicals and on greenhouse gas emissions, limit their business and make their products more expensive than non-European Union imports.

On Friday, farmers on their tractors staged a demonstration in the streets of Paris before the Agricultural Fair.


Jeffrey Schaeffer contributed to this report.

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