RIGA - On December 3, Latvian farmers took to Brussels as part of a two day protest campaign in support of dairy producers. They are planning to protest as a response to the European Commission’s 7.7 million euro support package, which they believe will only be enough to cover a few months worth of compensation for money lost as a result of Russian sanctions on EU dairy products.
The chairman of “Zemnieku Saeima,” Juris Lazdins, said that it is still unclear what period the EU funding is meant to cover, while Russia’s embargo has caused losses to Latvia’s dairy industry in the amount of several dozen million euros during the past three months.
“Seven point seven million euros suffices only if this amount is used to cover one month only. If this sum is meant for the entire loss period, the situation in the dairy industry will not improve, as 7.7 million euros are able to cover two months only. The European Commission should explain what period the said sum is meant to cover, whereas Latvia has to repeatedly submit the total amount of losses it suffered,” Lazdins said.
He also confirmed that Latvia’s farmers have not yet given up on the idea of joining the protest campaign organized by farmers from the Baltic States and Scandinavia in Brussels this December. “Despite the fact that the first support call has been answered by the European Commission, the Baltic and Scandinavian farmers will continue addressing respective officials, and hold a protest campaign in Brussels,” Lazins said
As a result of the West’s sanctions of Russia over its actions in Ukraine, Russia has implemented punitive sanctions on EU dairy products. But Latvian prime minister Laimdota Straujuma does not believe the protestors will achieve their aims from their trip to Brussels.
“I do not believe that farmers’ protest campaign will achieve any results, however, it is a way to express their attitude, and I support farmers’ strikes and demonstratiomdota Straujuma (Unity) said in an interview with the LTV show “Rita Panorama”.
Straujuma added though that dairy farmers received additional EUR 20 million since September 2014.
In commenting on the critical situation of grain farmers, Straujuma indicated that there will definitely be no support from the state. “An insurance system has been implemented. People who have insured their grain fields, I believe, have no problems now,” the prime minister said.
And due to a drop in grain prices, additional costs of the threshing season, and the cost of re-sowing fields this past spring, grain farming could suffer losses in the amount of EUR 220 million this year, which is another reason why leaders of Latvian farmers’ cooperatives urge the Agriculture Ministry and government to get involved in solving the problem.
“The style of the campaign does not stipulate any street protests; they will be in the form of demonstrative and coordinated discussion with members of the European Commission and parliament. However, the moment of surprise will remain, and we will attract attention from the press - farmers will hand out milk bottles to politicians featuring labels with brief captions in different languages, representing the catastrophic situation in the industry and demanding further support opportunities,” epresentative of the Latvian Agricultural Cooperatives Association, Sabine Puke informed LETA.
Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs (Greens/Farmers) said that the European Commission’s support package will be granted only to those dairy farms that provide produce.