Farmers balk on nation-wide protests

  • 1998-08-06
  • Parker Ruis
VILNIUS - The Lithuanian government saved the country from masses of angry farmers blocking roads and highways when it approved more than 40 million litas ($10 million) in subsidies for setting new grain prices.

Lithuanian farmers blocked one road last week and threatened to do much more if the government didn't promise to protect their incomes by increasing the minimum price at which their grains could be purchased by processing companies.

"I believe both sides are now satisfied," a spokesman from the Ministry of Agriculture told TBT. "The 40 million litas approved by the government will come from the privatization fund while another 5 million litas will be provided by the Village Support Fund. Soon farmer representatives will return for negotiations with the government over subsidy agreements for next year as well, which we believe will be a smaller amount."

The farmers' representatives were also satisfied by the agreement and even brought Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus a huge loaf of bread. Adamkus met with both government leaders and farmer representative during the negotiation process.

"The president tried to push this process and attempted to [assist] in the negotiations," said a spokesman for Adamkus.

While both the government and farmer negotiators emerged with smiles on their faces after avoiding the protest, not everyone is satisfied with the agreement. Olegas Abakas, director of Joniskio Grudai (Joniskas Grain), a grain processing company expressed angry words regarding the deal.

"It's all political. The farmers simply wanted attention," said Abakas. "Those who have a big mouth can shout loudly. The farmers should learn how to grow grain of a better quality. The agricultural issues should be looked upon as one unit, not to separate grain from the equation. The farmers got something, but they are taking it out of my pocket, your pocket and even their own pocket [by getting money from the Village Support Fund]."

The Baltic News Service (BNS) reported that weather conditions contributed to the poor quality of grain this year and that new prices set by the government on purchasing grain have been established. A ton of first-class wheat will be sold for at least 530 litas, a ton of second-class wheat for 470 litas, and a ton of rye for 470 litas.