European farmers’ protests press ministers to act

Published February 27, 2024
Brussels: A tractor discharges hay onto police officers during a protest called by farmers’ organisations against the European Union’s agricultural policies.—AFP
Brussels: A tractor discharges hay onto police officers during a protest called by farmers’ organisations against the European Union’s agricultural policies.—AFP

BRUSSELS: Farmers on Monday blocked a border crossing between Poland and Germany, threw bottles at police in Brussels and gathered in Madrid to demand action on cheap supermarket prices and what they say is unfair competition from abroad.

Agricultural ministers from across the European Union pledged to do more to cut red tape and help farmers as they convened in Brussels to discuss the crisis in the sector after weeks of angry protests.

The 27-nation EU has already weakened some parts of its flagship Green Deal environmental policies, removing a goal to cut farming emissions from its 2040 climate roadmap. But farmers are demanding more.

“We’re here again in Brussels today as farmers because the European Union is not listening to our demands. Our demands are for fair revenue,” said Morgan Ody, general coordinator of farming organisation La Via Campesina.

“We produce the food and we don’t make a living. Why is that? Because of free trade agreements. Because of deregulation. Because the prices are below the cost of production. So we demand the EU to move on this.” On the margins of the Brussels rally, riot police fired water cannon at protesters throwing bottles and eggs, while about 900 tractors jammed parts of the Belgian capital, not far from the cordoned-off area where ministers were meeting.

At a protest in Madrid, farmers from across Spain blew whistles, rang cowbells and beat drums, urging the EU to loosen regulations and drop some changes to its Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) of subsidies and other programmes.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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