THOUSANDS OF farmers from all over the country made their presence known in Beja in the Alentejo last week, where they congregated to call upon the government for a support package to minimise the effects of the worst drought in Portugal’s history.
Angry at receiving no reply from the Minister for Agriculture, the protesters decided to take to the streets with tools and tractors, blocking traffic on the IP2 at around 9pm. Shortly afterwards, the group was peacefully dispersed by the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP).
During the protest, more than 1,500 farmers converged at Beja’s Parque de Feiras, demanding the payment, on time, of 425 million euros of community aid, payment which is expected to arrive on October 16. However, should the demand not be met within a month, the farmers are threatening a new demonstration, this time at Terreiro do Paço in Lisbon.
“If the government does not comply with the payment of 50 per cent of this community aid, we are going to block the Terreiro do Paço with our tractors and animals,” stated João Machada, president of the Confederação dos Agricultores de Portugal (CAP), the country’s farmers confederation, which promoted the protest, together with the Federação das Associações dos Agricultores do Baixo Alentejo (FAABA), the Low Alentejo federation of farmers associations.
As well as the payment from the European Union, the farmers are demanding a series of measures to combat the serious crisis that the sector has been going through for the past year. The demands include free access to grain from European countries, postponement of debt payment for five years and the social security payment exemption.