It has been largely played down by the nation’s media, but farmers and forestry producers are on the warpath over what they consider to be the government’s insufficient measures to compensate for widespread losses in last summer’s fires.
Lusa news agency has presented the story as Agriculture Minister Capoulas Santos being “bewildered” by the demonstration that met him in Coimbra earlier this week – saying that the help on offer is “in line with all European rules”.
People who have suffered damages above €5000 could not expect to “go to a counter and receive an envelope” with the money they claim to have lost inside it, he said.
They “naturally have to comply with a series of requirements”.
“We have introduced a very simplified system for bids up to €5000 which are paid at 100%, and which will be the majority”, added the minister, stressing that the demo caused him “some bewilderment, because the agricultural associations know the situation as well as I do”.
But Capoulas Santos seems to have missed the point of the protest, called by ADACO (the district association of Coimbra farmers), CNA (the confederation of agriculture) and MAAVIM (the movement to support victims of the fires of Midões).
The banner-waving groups were calling for the “simplified system” to cover bids for compensation of up to €10,000, not €5000.
As one demonstrator explained a €5000 cheque will fall short of replacing “a tractor, olive trees, a small warehouse and animals for domestic consumption”.
“Many small producers have suffered damages of between €5000 to €10,000” said a document handed in to the regional board of agriculture to be sent on to the prime minister and ministers of the Sea and of Agriculture, adds Lusa.
Farmers have a number of other demands – extension of the time limits in which they can submit their bids for compensation included.
And if their manifesto does not bring the desired changes, they promise further demos “wherever necessary”, Lusa adds.