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Farmers demand overdue state help

Looming bankruptcy brings potato growers in Bulgaria to protest

EU Commission suspends subsidies to curb “overproduction” but Bulgaria produces only a limited amount and relies solely on imports, producers say

Photo: library

The state is in collapse, there are no real solutions in any of the sectors, people worry about how they will feed their families and how they will pay their bills, say potato growers from the town of Samokov. They protested in front of the Ministry of Agriculture in Sofia against a regulation voted by the European Commission, according to which ware potatoes are removed from Coupled Agricultural Subsidies. Only starch potatoes remain covered.(Ware potatoes are all sorts destined for human consumption in potato form – ed.)

After the EU Commission vote potato producers in Bulgaria are left without any financial support at the beginning of the new agricultural season.

This leaves potato producers in Bulgaria without any support at the beginning of the new agricultural season. In mid-February they announced they were ready to take protest action."We have nothing at the moment, we struggle year after year, day after day, for our crops to survive. We are all facing bankruptcy, only the strongest in the sector will survive, those who have side incomes to rely on," says Ekaterina Cholakova, a potato producer from Samokov.

According to her, these problems have been piling up for 15 years in the Agriculture sector. The state has not found any solution for them. "We are throwing our labor and money into a bottomless pit. Now, after this protest, my husband and I will have to decide what to do. As far as I see it, our way out is to sell everything, load the children in the car and leave Bulgaria to work hard in a foreign country," Ekaterina Cholakova says.

"From next year there will be no subsidies for potato farming because Brussels believes there is overproduction of potatoes. But there is no overproduction in Bulgaria, the potatoes on the market are mostly imported. In fact, the entire Bulgarian potato harvest can satisfy the needs of a city the size of Plovdiv (population 347 000 - ed.) for just two months. Bulgaria relies solely on imports.

Two weeks ago, we had a conversation with Deputy Minister of Agriculture Momchil Nekov. He assured us that the cabinet wants to work with us, the potato producers, and not through the associations.

We also had a meeting with the President's adviser, Mr Nikolai Koprinkov, and he took our problems to heart.

English version: Elizabeth Radkova

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