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Protest of farmers - political influence or a matter of survival?

Photo: BGNES

Miners and energy workers have started a protest in Sofia, calling for preserving the coal mining industry in this country and against the premature closure of capacities in the sector. The protest is backed by the two largest trade union organizations in Bulgaria - "Podkrepa" and CITUB.

Meanwhile, farmers who have been protesting for days against lifting of the moratorium on the import of Ukrainian grain, said the authorities have time until 3 p.m. on September 19, to satisfy their demands, otherwise they would block the center of the capital city with heavy agricultural machinery. What led to this situation?

The decision of the National Assembly to lift the ban on the import of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seeds originating from Ukraine after September 15 provoked representatives of 26 branch organizations from the agriculture sector to announce the beginning of protest actions at key locations throughout the country. Their main demands include continuation of the ban on the import of cereals from Ukraine, introduction of a ban on Ukrainian unrefined milk powder, on fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, meat and meat products, live animals, honey and other bee products. Farmers also call for payment of the full amount of compensations for increased production costs as a result of the war in Ukraine by September 30, as well as for removing the aid ceiling, monitoring compliance with the ban and for increased quality control. Protesters also call for state aid over failed crops and for support for investments.

Georgi Milev, vice-chairman of the National Association of Grain Producers, has told the BNR that the police issued warnings to the protesters in an attempt to stop the protest actions and asked them not to drive heavy equipment on the roads.

"This is a déjà vu. We have seen such pressure before and it is not coming just from the police, but state agencies have also been involved. We have information that animal breeders have received notification letters that their farms will be inspected during the days of the rally. I think the state machine is fully engaged in stopping the protest.''

Milev also commented on the words of Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, who called the protesters "terrorists", whom he would not negotiate with:

"I would describe this statement as ugly, ill-mannered and disrespectful. There is no way a branch that has brought Bulgaria out of two national catastrophes could be likened to a terrorist."

An apology from the Prime Minister followed as well as an invitation for a meeting with representatives of the grain producers that they declined.

The chairman of the National Association of Grain Producers Ludmil Rabotov says that the protests are not politically motivated.

Speaking about the image of large grain producers in people's minds, as "absorbers" of a huge part of European subsidies, on the basis of which they also acquired considerable personal property, Ludmil Rabotov said:

"You know that in every economic sphere there are bigger companies, but there is no way that all fit the general image that is presented in media and society,” the agronomist pointed out. “We are 66,000 farmers, as there are 3 to 5 companies that are the largest and all the rest are smaller companies or family businesses, etc. There is no way one can say that all these 66,000 farmers are terrorists or that they are all involved in some schemes for abusing European funds."

Grain producers are also dissatisfied with the additional 32 million euros proposed by the Ministry of Finance to support farmers after lifting of the ban on the import of Ukrainian grain:

Meanwhile, in a position published on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Minister Kiril Vatev invites representatives of the initiative committee of the nationwide protest to a meeting and assures that the demands formulated by them have already been satisfied.

English: Al. Markov

Photos: BGNES

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