Greek farmers block roads, borders in price protest

Thousands of farmers blocked border crossings and main highways in a fifth day of protests to demand compensation for a slump in agricultural prices.

Greek farmers block roads, borders in price protest

Thousands of farmers blocked border crossings and main highways in Greece on Friday in a fifth day of protests to demand compensation for a slump in agricultural prices.

Farmers, seeking tax rebates and subsidies, intermittently shut border crossings into Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey, a day after rejecting a 500-million-euro package from the government.

Hundreds of abandoned tractors choked the national highway from the capital Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki at several points in central Greece, leaving motorists angry and goods stranded for days.

"We have decided to continue roadblocks until the government satisfies our demands", Thanassis Kokkinoulis, head of the union of agricultural co-operatives in the Larissa region of central Greece, told Reuters.

Farmers' leaders want an increase in the government aid package, a rebate on value added tax payments for materials, and exact details of subsidies per agricultural product.

They say high fuel and fertiliser prices last year drove up production costs, but a poor harvest is reaping rock-bottom prices due to the global economic downturn.

The government has offered to tap a 28-billion-euro ($36-billion) bank support scheme to provide them with assistance.

A police official, who declined to be named, said almost 8,000 farmers were manning 6 roadblocks across highways in central and northern Greece, with many others in smaller blocks.

"Along the borders with Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey, vehicles are facing big delays with farmers opening and closing the roads near the crossings all the time," the official said.

Business groups have called on the government to resolve the protest urgently as it is hampering the transport of goods across Greece, exacerbating the impact of the downturn.

"We beg farmers to let us pass and deliver our cargoes," a truck driver blocked near the Bulgarian border told state TV.

Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2009, 17:57
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