Greek farmers demand compensation, shutting Bulgaria border

Farmers demanding compensation for low agricultural prices blocked Greek highways,

Greek farmers demand compensation, shutting Bulgaria border

Farmers demanding compensation for low agricultural prices blocked Greek highways on Monday, shutting border crossings with Bulgaria and cutting roads between Athens and other key cities.

Officials held talks with union leaders, but Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said the government would not increase its 500 million euro aid offer.

"The state is determined to stick to this policy," Hatzigakis said.

Fears of rising poverty and unemployment helped fuel Greece's worst riots in decades in December, which caused over a billion euros of damage and lost business in Athens alone.

Thousands of farmers seeking tax rebates and subsidies shut crossings into Bulgaria on Monday, in an eighth day of protests, and barred the highway between Athens and Greece's second city of Thessaloniki in the north.

On the narrow Isthmus of Corinth, scores of tractors blocked the highway from Athens to the southern Peloponnese peninsula, home to Greece's third largest city of Patras. Only one other bridge links the Peloponnese, home to around a tenth of Greece's 11 million population, to the mainland.

"We don't intend to stop unless the government satisfies our demands," the president of the Greek Federation of Farmers Unions, Giorgos Goniotakis, told Reuters.

"We asked the government to supplement our income, tackle price cartels and fraud, but it hasn't taken any measures."

Farmers' leaders say the government's proposed package remains too vague and they are demanding details of exact subsidies on specific agricultural products, like cotton and olive oil, before they will halt their action.

Farmers complain that high fuel and fertiliser prices early last year drove up the cost of production but a a global economic slowdown is contributing to rock-bottom prices.

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

Business groups have urged the government to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible, saying the disruption to goods transport was worsening the impact of an economic slowdown.

Reuters
Last Mod: 27 Ocak 2009, 11:45
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