Government dangles carrot for farmers

The fear that the government may lose the support of the notoriously vociferous farmers prompted Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kontos to meet yesterday and discuss ways of ensuring the support of the farming sector. The rising cost of fuel, coupled with the government’s decision earlier this year to stop the distribution of cheaper heating oil, which was also used for farming machinery, has prompted disquiet among farmers. Kontos has pledged that next year anyone claiming the majority of their income from farming would be able to reclaim anything they pay in fuel consumption tax. The leader of the New Democracy affiliated farmers’ union, Thanassis Kokkinoulis, who has been critical of the government recently, responded to the proposals by simply saying: «We hope that it will happen.» The government wants to get the farmers on its side ahead of Karamanlis’s appearance at the Thessaloniki International Fair in September to ensure they do not stage any protests there.