Portugal’s farmers have decided enough is enough: assurances that their plight will be addressed once the new government takes office simply do not cut the mustard.
“If there was an earthquake, no one would be waiting for the new government to be sworn in”, Eduardo Oliveira de Sousa, president of CAP – the Portuguese Agricultural Confederation – has told Rádio Renascença, stressing farmers’ dilemmas are every bit as urgent as damages caused by an earthquake: the combination of rising prices, drought and the conflict in Ukraine, has already seen to it that producers are absolutely powerless to move forwards, even tread water, economically.
“There is an anguish and very urgent need to help these farmers so that they don’t get rid of their animals which the country could well need depending on the situation that Europe is facing,” warned Oliveira da Silva.
Farmers have requested an urgent meeting with the prime minister – but in the current context the perceived urgency of this issue is not at the top of the government’s list.
And as farmers wait in an ‘anguish’ that cannot contemplate the time ‘extraordinary measures’ may take Brussels to sanction, Oliveira da Silva stressed that everything they manage to produce will have to be priced according to the sector’s current challenges.
He added that Ukraine is Portugal’s principal supplier of corn, which happens to be the ‘main ingredient in the manufacture of animal feed’.
From Russia comes wheat, rye and cereals used in the making of bread.
“Much of our bread comes from these regions, and for this reason, while there are embargoes on Russia, while frontiers are closed, the whole market will be affected.
“The government will have to come up with alternatives, which will be more expensive”, he said. “All this will reflect in the national economy, in inflation, in public accounts. This is why we are appealing now for help for our farmers, so that they are not obliged to sell their animals” (for the reason that they can no longer afford to feed them).
The president of CAP described the situation as ‘the perfect storm’ – a moment when everything is against his sector, and when transversal price increases are inevitable as the production of everything is dependent either on exports, or rain that the country has not yet had in sufficient quantities for its own crops to flourish.
“Even if the war in Ukraine ends quickly”, Portugal will be facing a marked increase in prices”, he warned. It’s “inevitable”.
But before one starts worrying about price increases, the long-awaited promise of government aid (not credit lines that push them into further debt) remains elusive.