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Thousands of farmers vent their anger in the streets of Madrid

Photo: Oscar del Pozo Agence France-Presse In a concert of horns, cow bells and drums, nearly 4,000 farmers from all over Spain took over the streets of the capital.

Valentin Bontemps – Agence France-Presse in Madrid

1:43 p.m.

  • Europe

“The rural world is dying”: the angry movement of Spanish farmers reached the center of Madrid on Wednesday, where huge columns of tractors demonstrated against the precariousness of the sector, which is agitating several European countries.

In a concert of horns, cow bells and drums, nearly 4,000 farmers from all over Spain took over the streets of the capital, according to the authorities, at the call of organization Union de uniones (Union of trade unions) and groups mobilized on social networks.

Among them, 500 managed to reach the city center aboard tractors, according to the prefecture. Grouped in five columns of around a hundred vehicles, they demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Agriculture behind signs indicating: “the rural world is dying” or “without the countryside, the city does not eat”.

This demonstration, the culmination of a movement of anger that began three weeks ago, in the wake of demonstrations organized in France and Germany in particular, led to numerous traffic jams and sparked some tensions with the police. 60~/p>

“Being Heard”

“What we want is to be heard, for the authorities to understand that we can no longer continue like this,” José Ignacio Rojo, 58, who came to demonstrate, explained to AFP from Burgos (north) against prices “which do not allow us to live” and a “bureaucracy” considered excessive.

“I work 14 hours a day. And when I finish my days in the fields, there is always paperwork waiting for me,” sighs the fifty-year-old, owner with his daughter of a 330-hectare farm dedicated to cereals and livestock.< /p>

A message relayed by Bernardino Hernandez, who came to parade with a sign: “Bureaucracy is ruining my farm”. “Just for administration, I would need a full-time person, it’s impossible,” assures this 70-year-old farmer with a straw hat and salt-and-pepper mustache.

Owner of 40 hectares near Cuenca (center), this wine grower previously employed three employees. “Today, I only have one, because of the fall in the price of grapes […] I work, but I lose money,” he laments.

Interviewed on public television, the national coordinator of Union de uniones, Luis Cortés, called on the Spanish government to make more efforts to “simplify” administrative procedures and protect farmers, many of whom are forced to “sell at a loss”.

We need better “import control”, argued the union leader, calling into question unfair competition from products imported from non-European countries. The latter must be “subject to the same” environmental constraints “as those imposed on Spanish farmers”, he insisted.

“Mirror clauses”

In addition to this rally in Madrid, several other demonstrations took place on Wednesday in the country, notably in Murcia (southeast), Palencia (north) and Malaga (south), this time at the call of the three professional organizations representing the sector: Asaja, COAG and UPA.

In a press release, the Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas assured that he was “fully involved” in “providing answers to the concerns of farmers”, recalling that he had unveiled last week a package of support measures for the sector at the end of 'a meeting with the unions.

The minister also once again committed to defending on Monday in Brussels the establishment of “mirror clauses”, a mechanism which requires imported products to respect the same rules as those required of European farmers .

This movement of agricultural anger has affected many other European countries since the start of the year.

In France, the scene of large demonstrations at the end of January, a highway was once again cut off by farmers on Wednesday morning. Demonstrators also invaded the headquarters of the dairy industry giant Lactalis to demand better remuneration for breeders.

Faced with this outbreak of anger, which occurs a few months before the European elections at the beginning of June, the European Commission has made several concessions in recent weeks, in particular on the objectives of reducing the use of pesticides in the EU.

EU States, for their part, renewed on Wednesday the mechanisms governing imports from Ukraine, at the heart of several farmers' demonstrations in recent days.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116