Farmers to scale up action after meeting with minister fails to yield results

Farmers are expected to scale up their protest action in the coming days after talks on Thursday between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and unionists objecting to the government’s taxation plans for their sector collapsed despite the minister’s proposal of certain concessions.

The farmers, who are to decide later on Friday on what form their action will take, have insisted on the revocation of the entire tax bill, which Stournaras rejected out of hand, calling instead on producers to join government officials for a discussion on how to boost growth in the agricultural sector.

But a set of “improvements” proposed by the government did not satisfy farmers, who insisted on certain key concessions. For instance they want the right not to declare costs attributed to agricultural work done by family members.

In a bid to set the tone for an escalation of their action, farmers on Thursday used their tractors to briefly block the national highway at two key junctions – one at Nikaia in central Greece and the other at Anthili in the prefecture of Fthiotida. At the Fthiotida protest, farmers spilled vats of milk into the road in a bid to draw attention to their grievances over the rising cost of production and reduced income.

Sources told Kathimerini that rifts had appeared between different farmers’ unions as protest fatigue sets in.

But the farmers’ campaign seems far from over as many of the roadblocks of the past two weeks have been attended by local politicians keen to muster support ahead of looming municipal and regional elections in May and have been suggesting to the farmers that the government may yield further if they stand their ground.

In a related development on Thursday, a delegation of MPs from PASOK, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, asked Stournaras to revise regulations governing fines imposed for tax violations. According to sources, the talks focused on provisions relating to the taxation of farmers. The same sources indicated that Stournaras appeared open to most of their recommendations.