Fresh protests by farmers choke Europe

Published February 22, 2024
FARMERS riding tractors arrive in front of Madrid’s Puerta de Alcala square during a protest against the European Union’s agricultural policy, on Wednesday.—AFP
FARMERS riding tractors arrive in front of Madrid’s Puerta de Alcala square during a protest against the European Union’s agricultural policy, on Wednesday.—AFP

MADRID: Hundreds of tractors rolled into Madrid on Wednesday for fresh protests by Spanish farmers angered by what they say is unfair competition, with similar moves taking place in France, Poland and Greece.

Spain’s Union of Unions syndicate rallied farmers at the crack of dawn, demanding fair product prices and competition with non-EU importers, reporters said.

“We have to protest in Madrid, because that’s where everyone is,” said Jose Angel Lopez, a farmer who travelled from Pancorbo, more than 300 kilometres north of Madrid. “We have to upset things a bit,” he said.

Spanish farmers and livestock breeders have been protesting since Feb 1 for product prices to cover their production costs, and for non-EU imports to face the same regulations they do, top union representative Luis Cortes told TVE public television.

A string of measures announced last week by Spain’s left-wing government did not go far enough to address the problems, Cortes said.

Spanish farmers are part of a wider movement that has seen roads blocked in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Greece, among other countries.

French farmers dumped produce and blocked roads, setting a de facto deadline for the government to meet their demands before they resume wider protests.

France’s Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has so far failed to appease the farmer’s grievances, which — as elsewhere — include low incomes, tight environmental rules and competition from cheaper non-EU imports. But agricultural unions last month did halt crippling nationwide protests following promises of government reform.

In Greece, thousands of farmers demanded financial aid to end their four-week showdown, with the government saying it has no more funds to help.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2024

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