Greek govt agrees to back farmers, stockbreeders as protests continue




The Greek government has announced support measures for farmers and stockbreeders, in response to protests staged in Athens.

Faced with growing production costs resulting from record-high energy prices, the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters hitting the country, thousands of protesters from the island of Crete, the Peloponnese peninsula and other parts of Greece rallied in front of the parliament and the Ministry of Rural Development and Food, reports Xinhua news agency.

As protesters were chanting "more state aid to stay afloat", Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Minister of Rural Development and Food Spilios Livanos announced that about 200,000 people will benefit from an excise duty return on petrol used in primary production next year.

The 50 million euro ($58 million) aid scheme will help young farmers and members of co-operatives, and it is part of a wider package of measures aimed to support the sector, they told a press briefing.

"The primary production sector is a key pillar of the Greek economy for the government of New Democracy (ruling party)," Staikouras was quoted as saying by the Greek national broadcaster ERT.

He added that since 2020, supplementary aid to the primary sector has amounted to 900 million euros. The support measures include the reduction of taxes, contribution to social security funds, aid to individuals, businesses and co-operatives affected by Covid-19, and compensation to those affected by wildfires, floods and earthquakes.

Protesters in Athens on Friday insisted that the burden they shoulder is far larger than the assistance provided so far by the government.

"All small and medium sized stockbreeding businesses should have the rights and support they had until (recently)," Spyros Darakis, a representative of a co-operative on Crete, told Xinhua, claiming that thousands may be "left behind" without substantial aid.

Ioannis Romanos, a lawyer representing an association of raisin producers on Peloponnese, highlighted the challenges they are facing due to the pandemic.

Due to the lockdowns and the closure or partial operation of the catering and tourism sectors for several months, producers have tons of raisins left in their warehouses.

The big surplus pushes down the prices to levels far lower than the production costs. "Last year, the price of Corinthian raisin was about 1.6 euros (per kilo). This year, it has dropped to one euro and the decline continues," he told Xinhua, stressing that currently the production cost is about 1.2 euros per kilo.

"With such prices, raisins production will be over in a couple of years," he said - IANS

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