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Farmers want subsidies of 2.2 billion euro per year

30 January 2013 / 16:01:55  GRReporter
3080 reads

Victoria Mindova

The state has been subsidizing agriculture in Greece with 2.2 billion euro a year since 2005, the president of the trade union of farmers in Karditsa Vangelis Boutas, who is a member of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), told GRReporter. The state aid will be reduced by half from next year onwards and this has made Greek farmers angry.

Over 1,000 tractors are ready to cut off the main roads in Greece as part of the protest against the increase of taxes on farmers and the reduction of subsidies from the European Union (EU) funds to the national framework for structural development (EMPA). Boutas states that the public funding is not enough to cover the difference between the high production costs and the low prices, which is the reason for taking out the tractors on the Greek roads again.

"Joining forces with workers in other sectors of the economy, the support for our struggle and the joint actions will help us against the ruthless policy of the government," said Boutas. The list of farmers’ demands includes:

- Removing the excise duty on naphtha for the transport of agricultural machinery, which applies to ships. There is no excise duty on the fuel for shipping in Greece as a measure to support the sector. The farmers want the state to apply the same tax concessions to them as regards the fuel for production which it applies to the shipping business;

- Cancelling the decision to reduce the amount of the VAT returned. It has come with the latest changes in the fiscal consolidation plan and it provides for the state to restore only 6% of the VAT paid by farmers instead of 11% as before. According to Boutas, this measure would burden the tax obligations of farmers by 500 to 1,000 euro per year;

- Cancelling the increase in health and pension insurance contributions, which according to Boutas, have increased for agricultural workers by 70% compared to the period before the crisis. Farmers state that the increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67 years is also cause for a protest;

- Restoring the 13 and 14 pensions and the social benefits;

- The state determining and ensuring the purchase price of their produce;

- Establishing a new general agricultural policy that does not cut the European subsidies by 50% as is the case in the programme for 2014.

"We want the government to solve our problems and to change the policy pursued so far", demand farmers.

The majority of the demands of farmers are connected with Greece’s obligations to reform its domestic economy in compliance with the agreement for financial assistance it has signed with Europe and the International Monetary Fund. The changes that lie behind the protests are part of the fiscal consolidation plan. The reduced state budget requires cuts in all spheres of economy, and agriculture cannot be an exception. Despite the imposition of more and higher taxes, the revenues to the state treasury have not increased due to the shrinking domestic demand and increasing unemployment.

Although these facts are widely known, farmers want the government to respond to their demands. Otherwise, they can block the highways and local roads between Athens and Thessaloniki. Moderate voices are still prevailing, which insist that the demands of farmers can be met with milder forms of protest. Farmers are aware that if they started active protests with blockades across the country without having a common goal with trade unions of other sectors, public opinion would quickly turn against them and so, they are currently waiting.

According to the information presented by the trade unionist, new supporters of the protest join the blocks of tractors every day. The Secretary of the Greek Communist Party, Aleka Papariga, visited the farmers in person to morally support them. She and her supporters believe that a conspiracy lies behind the public policy pursued that aims to take away the land from small farmers and this is the reason for the reduction of the state subsidies to farmers from next year. The conspiracy, according to the KKE, involves the European Union as well.

 

Tags: SocietyTractorsFarmersStrikeEgnatia
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