Greece: Farmers organise road blockades

“Fighting for their survival!”

With more than 10.000 tractors parked in 40 different places on national highways, Greek farmers are holding strong blockades, protesting against the governmental anti-farmers policies.

This is not the first time that Greek farmers have protested in this way. However, it is the first time that all of the different layers of agricultural workers organized in such great numbers (cotton farmers, wheat farmers, olive oil producers, citrus farmers etc). After the announcement by the Minister of Agriculture, K.Hatzigakis, promising the release of more money from the state budget for the compensation of Greek farmers, the numbers on the blockades have increased rather than decreased. That is evidence that Nea Dimokratia (‘New Democracy, the right-wing government party) cannot “buy” time and tolerance, any longer. In fact, some of the most determined farmers are ND supporters who feel betrayed by their party, and have publicly threatened to burn their party cards.

The government may suffer from selective amnesia, but not the Greek farmers. Both the Prime Minister K. Karamanlis and the Minister of agriculture have made big promises to the farmers in the past. Hatzigakis, in particular, went as far as driving a tractor during a blockade of peasants and farmers in 2001, to declare his support to their demands.

Greek farmers fight for survival

During the last decade, 30% of Greek farmers (213,500) have abandoned their farms.

During the same period, Greek farmers lost more than 20% of their annual income. The worst year was 2008, due to the record prices of fuels, fertilisers and feed. Wholesale traders, cartels and food monopolies, together with the banks, steal from farmers’ incomes to increase their own profits. That is why Greek farmers’ incomes are the third lowest in the EU.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) based its funding on the most competitive agricultural economies, in Northern Europe, instead of the less competitive ones, such as the Greek economy. Consequently, the EU has made enormous cuts in subsidies, exacerbating the losses for Greek farmers.

The government accused farmers of being motivated, not by real problems, but by opposition parties. Even more outrageous was the accusation that farmers are an “anti-social” layer, who want to “steal” from the funds intended for spending in other areas.

Greek farmers are raising the obvious questions: “If the government managed in one night to find 28 billion euros to save 50 bankers from a crisis of their own making, which means an average of 500 million euros for each one, how on earth can they expect us to accept the same money (500 million euros) for more than half a million people?”

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January 2009