site.btaGrain Growers Block Roads, Ports in Protest at Duty-Free Imports from Ukraine
Grain growers in Eastern Bulgaria on Wednesday have blocked roads to border checkpoints with Romania and ports in Silistra through which Ukrainian grain is imported. They demand that the operation of the EU Regulation exempting imports originating in Ukraine from import duties must not be extended for Bulgaria. The protesters claim that in the last few months, the market prices of the most widespread cereal and oilseed crops do not cover the production costs.
Grain growers have blocked traffic in the area of the Danube Bridge Border Checkpoint at Ruse. They are protesting against the liberalized import of agricultural products from Ukraine at low prices, the grave situation of Bulgarian agriculture, and the refusal of traders to buy Bulgarian cereals and oilseeds - all of which strongly impairs the competitiveness of Bulgarian agricultural producers.
Milen Koev, Chair of the Danube Grain Regional Farmers' Union, said about 50% of wheat, maize and sunflower seed in Ruse Region are sitting in storage, while in previous years almost everything had been sold by this time. The protest will continue in the next two days, he said.
Radoslav Hristov, Chair of the Thracian Union of Grain Producers, said some 40% of last year's crop in Bulgaria is being warehoused, and asked where the new crop will go when harvesting starts in three months. "We are here because Brussels won't hear our voice," he said.
The protesters carried banners reading "Stop the genocide of agriculture", "We want to be competitive farmers" and "The Bulgarian land feeds the Bulgarian people".
Hundreds of grain growers from the regions of Burgas, Varna and Dobrich have blocked the road to Kardam Border Checkpoint (Northeastern Bulgaria) with more than 200 vehicles. They are demanding that duty-free imports of agricultural products from Ukraine must stop.
National Grain Producer Association Deputy Chair Iliya Prodanov said Bulgarian producers must be protected and their products marketed at fair prices. "Every year we produce about 2 million tonnes of sunflower, of which between 5% and 10% has been sold so far this year. About 4 million tonnes of wheat are sitting in warehouses," he said, adding that the purchase price is 40% below cost. Losses from sunflower alone are about BGN 800 million.
Protesters with nearly 100 farm vehicles from the regions of Silistra, Targovishte, Yambol, Sliven and Razgrad have gathered in Silistra (Northeastern Bulgaria). They closed to traffic three ports through which Ukrainian grain is imported. Local fruit growers and livestock breeders joined the protest.
Daniela Dimitrova, Chair of the Association of Grain Producers in Danubian Dobrudja, said Ukrainian imports make Bulgarian growers uncompetitive. "Our products meet very high requirements under EU standards, which pushes up costs. The warehouses are full. We stand in solidarity with Europe and its support for Ukraine, but the European Commission should look at each individual Member State and make farmers competitive."