ANGRY French farmers dumped piles of manure in front of city buildings in the southwest city of Toulouse this week - a pungent protest against the government's agricultural policy which they say is leaving them to face increased hardships.

Nearly 400 tractors and 1000 farmers from across south-west France took to the city after rallying before dawn at meeting points across the region.

They headed for Toulouse, honking horns and pulling trailer-loads of hay and manure as they moved in on the ancient city center, blocking entire lanes on some roads and causing massive traffic jams.

Bus services were forced to change their routes and the local police chief called on residents to avoid central Toulouse.

When the tractors reached the regional authority building, they tipped dozens of trailer-loads of rotting fruit, hay, and manure right in front of it.

The protesters say increased taxes and social charges are causing hardship for farmers across the region. The tax hikes and other fees come on top of increased costs for fuel and animal feed, and a general rise in the cost of living across the country.

Elsewhere in the region, farmers targeted large suburban supermarkets, dumping manure in their parking lots. The farmers say many big supermarket chains refuse to pay fair prices for their produce.

These protests followed a number of demonstrations in the region last November, as farmers fear for their livelihoods.