Tractors clog Barcelona as farmers protest unfair competition

High costs and bureaucracy also major issues
calendar icon 8 February 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

Convoys of tractors converged on Barcelona's city centre on Wednesday and farmers blocked roads across Spain in protests against high costs, bureaucracy and cheap competition that have spilled over from elsewhere in Europe, reported Reuters.

On their second day of protests, Spanish farmers planned to disrupt traffic and meet with local authorities to explain their grievances. Around 15 major roads were blocked across Spain on Wednesday afternoon, traffic authorities said.

Farmers across Europe, including in Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, have staged sometimes violent protests.

They say European Union rules to protect the environment make them less competitive than farmers in other regions such as Latin America. They also complain against what they say are increasingly burdensome bureaucratic measures.

"The price of products is always set by the businessman who buys them, and then they can buy from other countries that do not follow the same restrictions as we do," 22-year-old farmer Joan Mata told Reuters while heading to Barcelona.

In Castellon on Spain's eastern coast, farmers blocked the main entrance to the port with tractors, burning tyres and staging a sit-down protest. Police agents removed the protesters one-by-one without violence, ending the blockade.

"It is totally unfair competition," citrus farmer Felipe Domenech, 55, told Reuters at the gates of the port. "If fruit comes from abroad it should enter under the same conditions."

Union leader Unai Sordo on Tuesday described the farmers protesting as businessmen, not farm workers, but said that did not undermine the legitimacy of their demands.

"They are right in some demands and less right in others," he told reporters.

The protests prompted the Spanish government to distribute an additional 269 million-euro ($290-million) subsidy for as many as 140,000 farmers and for the European Commission, the EU executive, to scrap a plan to halve pesticide use in the bloc.

($1 = 0.9285 euros)

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