By Angelos Anastasiou
FARMERS protested outside the presidential palace in Nicosia on Thursday demanding the immediate payment of state subsidies, as well as resolution of a host of “other problems” they are facing. But the action caused a rift among members, with some saying they would be paid within days, anyway.
The demonstration took place at around 11am with farmers blocking one side of the road outside the palace with their tractors and delivering a resolution.
The resolution was received by the cabinet’s secretary.
The convoy then headed to the finance ministry, before ending the protest at parliament.
Three farmer unions – EKA, PEK, and the New Farmers’ Movement – participated in the protest, while the Panagrotikos and Evroagrotikos unions refused to take part, claiming the mobilisations are needless since the subsidies will be paid within a fortnight.
On Wednesday, agriculture payments commissioner Timis Efthymiou said the payment of subsidies will start after Christmas.
They concern 3,000 farmers who will share €3.5m in headage subsidies and area-based subsidies worth €50m payable to 34,000 people. The latter will be paid at the end of January, he said.
After a meeting between President Nicos Anastasiades and representatives of the unions on Wednesday, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos had deemed the farmers’ reaction “unjustified”, claiming that a “satisfactory solution” had been reached.
EKA union’s representative Panicos Hambas argued that the protest was staged “not just because the government failed to live up to its promises on paying the subsidies”, but also due to a series of problems that were listed in a memo sent to Anastasiades in October, to which no response was received until Wednesday’s emergency meeting at the palace.
According to Hambas, the problems are serious enough to “determine whether a farmer will remain in the profession”.
He referred to the disbanding of the Agricultural Insurance Organisation and the Cyprus Potato Marketing Board, the taxation of agricultural land and fuel, and the inclusion of the citrus produce of Polis Chrysochous only to the “green harvesting” scheme.
“The interests of particular political persons are being served,” Hambas said of the “green harvesting” issue.
He added that there are a host of other problems that haven’t even been discussed yet.
“Some of our demands would incur no additional cost to the state, but are resisted by political philosophies that want to disband organisations and hand them over to private profiteering interests,” he noted.
The EKA rep said this was a peaceful, warning mobilisation, in which farmers from across Cyprus participated.
“It was a wake-up call,” he said.
“If they don’t meet our demands, if they don’t come to the table for discussion, then yes, we will escalate measures.”