Farmers’ protests: The global spread of unrest and disruption

Last updated:
Feb 15, 2024

What's inside?

What we know

Agriculture is an increasingly prominent global topic, intersecting with broader concerns about finances, food supplies, and climate change. France in particular has a long history of unrest across the agriculture sector, which sparked the ongoing demonstrations earlier this year.

Similar protests led by farmers have occurred in every EU country, except Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. These protests involved actions such as road blockades using tractors and significant disruptions to ports, airports, and distribution routes.

In the US, farmers are complaining about being priced out by big companies. In India, thousands of farmers are demanding minimum crop prices and facing resistance, including the use of tear gas, from Indian security forces attempting to block their entry into the capital, New Delhi.

In 2020, protesting farmers staged a months-long blockade of national highways connecting the capital to neighbouring states, and was one of the biggest challenges to Modi’s government, leading to the authorities rolling back controversial agricultural reforms.

Why it matters

Climate change and conflict are drivers of reducing crop yields globally, decreasing the viability of farming as a business. Additionally, the rising cost of living has made agricultural produce a crucial societal issue, and it has now emerged as a significant player in political discussions, especially with multiple elections scheduled for 2024.

The protestors' demands are heavily linked to climate adaptation, as they ask for measures to prevent farmland from being impacted by extreme weather, and competition from cheap foreign imports. It is likely that the ongoing civil unrest will prompt significant adaptations to proposals by national political parties and further unrest if these demands are not met.

In June, EU citizens will elect new members of the European parliament, and recent polling suggests there could be a "sharp turn to the right." Right-wing parties are likely to utilise the farmer protests to boost their electoral support and mobilise against the current government.

The protests have the capacity to cause a decline in their respective national economic output, the wider economy at the EU level, and perhaps globally. This includes disruption to the agriculture sector, the transport sector responsible for delivering the goods – impacting the overall supply chain – alongside gridlocks and clashes with police impacting trade and manufacturing.

Notably, any impact to food production, has significant fallout to society, which is already grappling with heightened civil unrest due to the ongoing fallout from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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