Farmers start rolling tractors onto public squares

Farmers in Thessaly in central Greece took the lead in heralded protest action on Tuesday, driving their tractors to key public squares in the region following an announcement over the weekend by the unions representing the country's farmers that they are prepared to escalate protests.

Farmers are demanding the abolition of a regulation forcing them to keep books recording their revenues and spending. They are also asking for an increase in their tax-free threshold and for measures to help them settle overdue debts.

Following the lead of their colleagues in Thessaly, farmers in Larissa said they will start gathering at Farsala and Platykambos, key agricultural areas, on Wednesday, while rallies in front of a number of taxes offices around Greece are scheduled for Friday as farmers in other parts of the country join the action.

"Brutal taxation through the opening of accounting books and 13 percent taxation from the first euro, all types of emergency levies on homes and farms, the excessive increase in electricity rates for farms, on petrol, on equipment and supplies, coupled with low prices, have reduced our income from agriculture and are leading thousands of farmers to poverty and wretchedness," a statement issued by the association of Larissa's farmers said.

In January and February last year thousands of farmers participated in similar action by blocking major junctions on Greece's national highways with their tractors for several weeks, raising concerns that similar action may be taken this year, affecting food supplies.