Greek farmers stage anti-tractor protest against soaring energy costs


LARISSA, Greece, Feb 4 (Reuters) – Farmers in central Greece demonstrated with hundreds of tractors against soaring energy prices on Friday, calling government support measures inadequate and demanding more help to cope with rising prices.

Farmers parked tractors on a national road near the town of Larissa in central Greece, where they clashed with police.

Kostas Tzelas, head of the Karditsa agricultural association, said rising fuel and electricity prices had increased production costs by 50%.

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“They don’t solve the fundamental problems we have in maintaining our farms and villages,” Tzelas said. “We are asking for substantial measures which will give a real solution to our problems.”

Greece has spent around 1.7 billion euros ($1.95 billion) to subsidize the electricity bills of farmers, households and businesses to help them cope with rising electricity prices. energy.

High energy costs were the main driver of inflation, which accelerated to 5.1% in December, the highest in the country in 11 years. Read more

Tzelas, speaking at the rally outside Larissa, the biggest city in Greece’s central agricultural heartland, said: “That’s why we are on the streets, the countryside will become deserted, the villages will be abandoned , people will not be able to cultivate and we will no longer be able to live in our villages.”

Earlier on Friday, the government unveiled additional financial aid of 170 million euros for the agricultural sector.

Agriculture Minister Spilios Livanos said in a televised statement that despite its tight finances, Greece had offered farmers a billion euros in aid last year.

“In this difficult time of multiple major external crises, we stand with our producers,” he said.

The package includes grants to cover 80% of additional costs farmers face on their electricity bills from August to December and half of those costs for January and February.

A sales tax on fertilizers will be reduced from 46% to 13%.

Farmers, who have said the latest measures are not enough, have staged several protests in the past against social security and pension contribution laws.

The agricultural sector represents a small part of Greek production, but it employs hundreds of thousands of people, mostly seasonal workers.

($1 = 0.8723 euros)

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Written by Angeliki Koutantou. Editing by Jane Merriman

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