Farmers block Greek highways in price protest
Thousands of farmers blocked highways throughout Greece, causing long tailbacks in a fourth day of protests over falling agricultural prices.
Thousands of farmers blocked highways throughout Greece on Thursday, causing long tailbacks in a fourth day of protests to demand compensation for falling agricultural prices.
Police said more than 8,000 farmers blocked roads in northern and central Greece and on the island of Crete using trucks and tractors after talks with the government late on Wednesday failed to reach a breakthrough.
Greek farmers are demanding tax rebates and interest-free loans to redress a slump in commodity prices.
"We continue our demonstrations and we will intensify them because the government hasn't offered us anything," Janetos Karamihas, president of the Greek confederation of farmers' unions, told Reuters. "Everything it proposes is very general."
Agricultural Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said on Wednesday the government would make specific proposals by the end of the week but he played down the likelihood of tax rebates.
He suggested the government could tap a 28 billion euro ($36.33 billion) bank support scheme to provide cheap loans to farmers in need. The bank scheme was unveiled last year to ensure credit flows to Greek businesses and consumers despite the global financial crisis.
TV images showed hundreds of empty tractors blocking the main road from the capital Athens to Greece's second city of Thessaloniki, in the north.
Near the border with Bulgaria, queues of vehicles stretched for more than 4 km (2.5 miles) and truck drivers squared off with farmers, shouting that their cargoes of meat and fruit were spoiling as they sat for days in traffic jams.
The Association of Northern Greek Industries sent a letter to Hatzigakis on Wednesday asking him to resolve the strike urgently because it was affecting a manufacturing sector already hit by falling demand for exports and a dockers strike.
Police said they were attempting to redirect traffic away from the national highways affected by the protests. However, many truckers and drivers complained they had paid highways tolls but were now being forced to use minor roads.
Reuters Last Mod: 22 Ocak 2009, 15:53