Spain: Farmers take oxen and tractors with them in protest February 21, 2024 Market

Madrid | AFP

Spanish farmers and ranchers brought tractors and even oxen to the center of Madrid this Wednesday (21) to protest against the difficulties of the sector, triggering a wave of indignation that swept several European countries.

Thousands of producers, who arrived from across Spain as part of a call by the Union of Trade Unions, marched through the streets of the Spanish capital to the sound of tractor horns.

The demonstrators arrived on the outskirts of the Ministry of Agriculture in five columns, consisting of a hundred vehicles carrying placards with slogans such as “The rural world is dying” and “Without the country, the city cannot eat.”

This demonstration, after three weeks of protests across Spain, caused several traffic jams and confusion for the police.

The mobilization of Spanish farmers and ranchers is part of a wave of rural protests in several European countries, particularly strong in France and Germany.

“Let them listen to us”

“What we want is for them to listen to us, for the authorities to understand that we cannot continue like this” and sell products at prices “that do not allow us to live,” said José Ignacio Rojo, a 58yearold Protester who arrived from Burgos in the north, told AFP from Madrid.

“I work 14 hours a day. And when I finish my days in the field, I have to deal with the paperwork (due to the bureaucracy in the industry),” said Rojo, who, along with his daughter, owns a 330acre farm dedicated to farming grains and crops for livestock farming.

Bernardino Hernández, a 70yearold farmer, carried a sign that read: “Bureaucracy is ruining my plantation.”

“You would need a fulltime employee just for administration, that’s impossible,” says the winemaker, who owns 40 hectares near Cuenca, in the center of the country.

He used to have three employees, but now only one remains, “because of grape prices, which have fallen sharply in the last three years,” he commented.

Luis Cortés, national coordinator of the Union of Trade Unions, called on the government to “simplify” administrative procedures and protect farmers, many of whom have to “sell at a loss.”

Better import control is needed, said the union leader, who questioned unfair competition in products imported from nonEuropean countries, which should be subject to “the same conditions that (…) force Spanish manufacturers to produce.”

Farmers also protested in other regions of the country, such as Murcia and Málaga, called by the three largest agricultural and livestock unions, Asaja, Coag and UPA.

Protests in other countries

The Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, said in a statement “the government's strong commitment to responding to the concerns of farmers and ranchers,” recalling that last week he presented a package of measures to support the sector after a meeting with unions.

On Monday (19), in Brussels, the minister reiterated his defense for the introduction of “mirror clauses”, a mechanism that obliges imported products to comply with the same standards required by European farmers.

The farmers' movement has been felt in several European countries since the beginning of the year, such as in France, where large demonstrations took place at the end of January, or in Greece, where more than a hundred tractors were lined up in front of the Athens Parliament on Tuesday (20).

Given the mobilizations taking place just months before the European elections in June, the European Commission has made concessions in recent weeks, particularly on the goals of reducing the use of pesticides in the EU.