Farmers produce list of 9 demands

Farmers pressed on with their protest action over the weekend, blocking key road junctions and border crossings for a third week after talks with Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli failed to produce a compromise. Representatives from 23 different road and border blocks from Thessaly and Macedonia, in central and northern Greece, agreed on a list of nine demands, which they were due to submit to Batzeli late last night. The demands on the list include: the immediate disbursement of compensation for lost income and the announcement of minimum prices for crops; the protection of domestic agricultural produce from the competition posed by foreign imports; the reduction of rising production costs through the abolition of value-added tax on agricultural supplies and machinery and the scrapping of tax on fuel; the imposition of a three-year freeze on the repayment of farmers’ loans; and the reduction of the minimum retirement age to 60 for men and 55 for women. Representatives for the farmers said that, in addition to this list of nine demands in common, each group had additional demands specific to their region and specialization. There had been no response by the ministry to the farmers’ demands by late yesterday. But on Friday Batzeli had said that the government would look into ways of boosting the incomes of farmers, who claim their sector is on the verge of bankruptcy. According to sources, Batzeli said that the government was considering channeling 1 billion euros of a 28-billion-euro rescue package set aside for banks last year to the agriculture sector.

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