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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

Agitated farmers protest across Europe demanding action on cheap supermarket prices

Agricultural ministers from across the EU were meeting in Brussels to discuss the crisis in the sector after weeks of angry protests

Reuters Madrid, Brussels, Warsaw Published 27.02.24, 07:00 AM
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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, including Ukraine.

Agricultural ministers from across the EU were meeting in Brussels to discuss the crisis in the sector after weeks of angry protests.

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

“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 costs of production. So we demand the EU to move on this.”

In the margins of the Brussels protest, riot police fired water cannon at protesters throwing bottles and eggs, while about 900 tractors jammed parts of the Belgian capital, a short distance 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 cut red tape and drop some changes to its Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

“It’s impossible to stand these rules, they want us to work on the field during the day and deal with paperwork at night — we’re sick of the bureaucracy,” said Roberto Rodriguez, who grows cereal and beetroots in the central province of Avila.

In Poland, farmers blocked the highway at a border crossing with Germany. “This is a show of common solidarity, that both Polish and German farmers will not allow these goods from Ukraine to continue to enter the European market. It’s a common cause,” said Adrian Wawrzyniak, a spokesperson for the Solidarity farmers’ union.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Andrzej Duda said farmers’ problems needed fixing at an EU level.

The farmers are angry about shipments from Ukraine after an EU decision in 2022 to waive duties on its food exports in the face of the war.

The EU ministers were set to debate a new set of proposals to ease the pressure on farmers, including a cut in farm inspections and the possibility to exempt small farms from some green standards.

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