European farmers stage new wave of protests

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Farmers in at least two European countries staged a new wave of protests on Thursday, demanding more economic support from their governments and reiterating opposition to some European Union (EU) policies related to agriculture and environment protection.

About 1,000 Italian farmers rallied in Rome’s busy areas, around the Colosseum and outside the city hall on Campidoglio Square. Ten tractors were seen at the Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman stadium for mass events and races.

Maltese farmers also drove their tractors towards the capital city Valletta, carrying national flags and placards reading “Take care of us or you’ll go hungry” and “Farmers gone? Eat your money.”

The protests followed similar demonstrations of the past weeks in several European countries including Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania.

The farmers in protest are largely against strict EU regulations on climate change mitigation and environment protection in agriculture, which, they said, would put their livelihood at risk.

They said such rules would increase the costs for European farmers and make their produce more expensive — and therefore less competitive — compared to products imported from non-EU markets where such limits were not in place.

After the wave of protests, the European Commission made some partial concessions to the farmers last week, including withdrawing a plan to halve the use of pesticides in the EU by 2030.

 

UNFAIR COMPETITION

Most of the protesters’ complaints are common, focusing on low prices for their produce, rising costs and unfair price competition from non-EU imports.

Maltese farmers told Xinhua that under EU rules there is an unfair playing field for local products, which due to limited space for production on the small island, face stiff competition from imported foods. They are calling for more protection from their government.

Farmer Joseph Bajada said Maltese produce could not compete with that from nearby Sicily. Supermarkets are also buying from cheaper producers such as farmers in Morocco, at a fraction of the local price.

The protest in Malta was organized by the Active Farmers Association and was supported by other sectors in the local food chain, including poultry and rabbit farms.

Association President Malcolm Borg listed several proposals which he said the government should take on board if it wants to help cushion the impact of EU regulations. They include identifying the non-EU countries, whose food products are in large quantity and direct competition with Maltese farmers, and finding ways to protect local producers, for example banning some imports and putting stricter rules on imported products from non-EU regions.

The proposals were handed to Maltese Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo and Opposition leader Bernard Grech, who were both present at the farmers’ protest.

 

MADE-IN-ITALY’S NEEDS

The protesting Italian farmers complained that it is increasingly hard to produce and promote “made in Italy” food and sometimes even too difficult to sustain financially.

After meeting with major farmers’ groups, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni‘s cabinet on Tuesday submitted a draft amendment to the parliament proposing to exempt personal income taxes for farms with up to 10,000 euros (10,770 U.S. dollars) in annual income and to allow a 50-percent tax break to those earning between 10,000 and 15,000 euros.

If passed by parliament, nine out of 10 farms — or 387,000 in total — would benefit from total tax exemption, while another 20,000 would see their taxes halved, according to an estimate by Italy’s largest farmers’ association Coldiretti.

After the proposal, some associations held back from protests, while others still demanded more alleviating measures.

According to the latest agriculture census by the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), almost two out of three farms quit agricultural production in Italy between 1982 and 2020. The size of the farming population has shrunk more drastically since 2000 when the country still counted almost 2.4 million farming companies.

Overall, Italian agriculture is made up of some 1.1 million producing companies as of 2020, most of which are small enterprises, according to ISTAT. (1 euro = 1.08 U.S. dollar) ■

Photo taken on Feb. 15, 2024 shows tractors driving on a road during a farmers’ protest in Valletta, Malta. Maltese farmers staged a new wave of protest on Thursday, demanding more economic support from their government and reiterating opposition to some European Union (EU) policies related to agriculture and environment protection.

Photo taken on Feb. 15, 2024 shows tractors driving on a road during a farmers’ protest in Valletta, Malta. Maltese farmers staged a new wave of protest on Thursday, demanding more economic support from their government and reiterating opposition to some European Union (EU) policies related to agriculture and environment protection.

Farmers participate in a protest in Ta’Qali, Malta, on Feb. 15, 2024. Maltese farmers staged a new wave of protest on Thursday, demanding more economic support from their government and reiterating opposition to some European Union (EU) policies related to agriculture and environment protection.

Photo taken on Feb. 15, 2024 shows tractors driving on a road during a farmers’ protest in Valletta, Malta. Maltese farmers staged a new wave of protest on Thursday, demanding more economic support from their government and reiterating opposition to some European Union (EU) policies related to agriculture and environment protection.

Photo taken on Feb. 15, 2024 shows tractors driving on a road during a farmers’ protest in Valletta, Malta. Maltese farmers staged a new wave of protest on Thursday, demanding more economic support from their government and reiterating opposition to some European Union (EU) policies related to agriculture and environment protection.

Photo taken on Feb. 15, 2024 shows tractors driving on a road during a farmers’ protest in Valletta, Malta. Maltese farmers staged a new wave of protest on Thursday, demanding more economic support from their government and reiterating opposition to some European Union (EU) policies related to agriculture and environment protection.

 

Source: Xinhua

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