site.btaRomanian Farmers Protest over Ukrainian Grain Imports
More than 200 farmers from Bucharest and the neighbouring regions gathered in front of the European Commission's Representation in the Romanian capital to protest against EU policies on Ukrainian grain imports. They chanted "We will not be silent, we want to work" and "Romania, wake up'" and displayed banners reading "Victims by choice", "We respect EU rules, but the EU ignores us", "We produce in a different way but sell the same way", "You go wrong, we pay", "Now or never" and "Do not punish our solidarity".
The discontented farmers insist that agriculture must remain a key contributor to Romania's GDP. If not, most farmers will go bankrupt this year - they pay high costs but are forced to sell their products at low prices because of imports from Ukraine.
"We insist that customs duties be reintroduced on agricultural imports from Ukraine. We demand that every truck entering Romania be subject to inspection, control, registration and strict monitoring," representatives of the National Branch Union of Cooperatives in the Plant Sector told BTA.
"These protests sound the alarm because we announced that we needed concrete measures but nothing happened. Now we are sending a public message to those not in the agricultural sector, because people in it are very well aware of our problems," Julia Sima, a farmer from Ploiesti, told BTA. In her words, a common approach is needed to goods coming from Ukraine. "We understand that Ukrainians need help, but this support should be organized so as not to affect us that much. At present, we produce at very high prices and sell at very low prices. Goods from Ukraine do not have to meet the same requirements as our products," Julia Sima added. She said Bulgaria and Poland are in the same boat, only Romania has a much larger quantity of Ukrainian grain.
"Like Bulgarian farmers, we are affected by the grain from Ukraine. We were promised that it would only transit Romania, but more than half of it, over 60%, stayed here. Prices have collapsed by over EUR 100 per tonne. At the same time, production costs are very high. If this goes on, half of the farmers will go bankrupt," Bercu Florentin, Executive Director of the National Branch Union of Cooperatives in the Plant Sector in Romania, told BTA. In his words, there is also a double standard regarding restrictions about the quality and safety of fertilizers. "Our products are sitting in warehouses. At the same time, we are buying products that are not healthy enough. We have problems with the quality of imports. Not to mention that the TIR-trucks passing through Romania are overweight and their drivers have no permits. The EU compensation for Romania is offensively small. EUR 10 million is a pittance," Bercu Florentin said. He added that if there is no adequate reaction from the authorities, they will go out to protest again in two months.
"Romania has turned into a transit corridor. It is not a competitive market with the wheat coming from Ukraine. And Europe is not a competitive market with the grain coming from Ukraine either. We are being treated as a second, even a third-rate country. The Ukrainians sell their products at a much more attractive price while paying much less for electricity and fertilizers. This is unfair competition. We cannot allow this to continue. We have children and grandchildren to take care of," stressed Lucian Marincea, Vice President of the Farmers' Syndicate in Teleorman.
More than 7,000 farmers are protesting across Romania on Friday. Some of them came out with their tractors early in the morning. In Targu Mures, a column of 200 tractors briefly blocked traffic at one of the city's roundabouts. There was tension between the gendarmerie and demonstrators after one of the farmers drove his tractor into the oncoming lane. The column of tractors also tried to break through the police cordon. The situation was quickly brought under control and no one was injured or arrested.