Farmers take their demands to the borders

  • 2000-07-06
  • By Elina Cerpa
We are at our wit's end, we are at a loss. We have been so endlessly
expectant. The government does not want to work and prop up the
national economy," said farmers who came to a July 3 press conference
in Riga.

The farmers planned to block transport cargo through the Grenctale
and Meitene customs points. This applied to incoming and outgoing
trucks. Farmers from Bauska, Jelgava, Tukum, Dobele, Saldus, Liepaja,
Cesis, and many other different districts planned participate in the
protest demonstration.

At the press conference, the board announced that the customs points
demonstration would continue until the government began to honor an
agreement which it has promised to the farmers. However, it's still
possible that the government at the beginning will fulfill only one
of the demands leaving the remainder unsolved.

The farmers demand that the government fulfill an agriculture statute
guaranteed by law to provide 3 percent of the budget as subsidy.
Until now this rule has not been followed.

The farmers ask that gas tax reimbursement be reinstated immediately
on 120 liters per acre and that grain subsidies be maintained.

For now the farmers are against joining EU until they are able to be

Today in Latvia agriculturists get 0.03 lats per liter of produce.
They want the Agriculture Ministry to raise the price to 0.10 lats.

In a meeting July 3, Agriculture Minister Atis Slakters, Prime
Minister Andris Berzins and Finance Minister Gundars Berzins achieved
an oral agreement that next year agriculture will get 3 percent of
the state budget .

Agriculture law holds that 13 percent from the base budget must be
allotted to agriculture subsidies, but for several years the money
has been used for other purposes.

Slakters is satisfied with the meeting's outcome in the government
fulfilling one of the farmers' demands.

The farmers demand bail-out measures to arrange the domestic market
for milk, meat, vegetables and fruit. They think the situation will
be improved not only by increasing the budget but also by organizing
Parliament elections.

Several meetings were scheduled during the protest. The farmers also
hoped to see representatives from the agriculture, economic,
environment and other ministries as well as Prime Minister Andris

Farmers have received some support in Parliament from the Latvian
Social Democrats Working Party and Latvia's Farmers Union.

Several analysts were skeptical about the demonstration because it
could turn out to be a Social Democrat and Latvia's Farmers Unions
propaganda show before local elections.

Social Democrats leader Juris Bojars said "If the extreme Parliament
elections happen, the Social democrats are ready to lead the

Bojars denied that activities would be tied to local selections.

It was foreseen that the demonstration could last a couple of days at
the Grenctale and Meitines customs stations. As those are the main
and biggest customs points on the thoroughfares from Latvia to
Lithuania, drivers were encouraged to use other customs stations.

If the actions yielded no results, the farmers were prepared to move
to Riga and continue demonstration near Parliament. Farmers declared
themselves ready to inform embassies and international organizations
on the developments in Latvia, as well as to ask the Prosecutor
General's Office to evaluate the government's operations.