Agriculture Minister: Many of farmers' demands have already been met

Many of the demands of Latvian farmers – who are protesting Monday –  have already been met, but there are things, such as the reduction of bureaucracy, which are still ongoing and which cannot be completed within a week. 

Such was the position of Minister of Agriculture Armands Krauze (Greens and Farmers Union, ZZS) in an interview with Latvian Radio February 5.

The minister said that the demand of the farmers regarding the prohibition of Russian and Belarusian grain imports to Latvia has already been met as the relevant bill has already been prepared. Farmers will also have access to larger funds for both partial repayment of loan interest and insurance. 

"Last year, additional funds in the amount of 12 million were already allocated within the budget. In addition to that, the Cabinet of Ministers regulations have already been prepared, which will give a wider opportunity to apply for longer and a wider range of applicants to receive compensation for half of the insurance policy," said the minister.

Although credit interest rates have increased, state support for partial repayment of credit interest in agriculture has been doubled – from approximately 12 million to 24 million euros, the minister contended. "It has really already been done here. There are certain things that have not been done in connection with the reduction of bureaucracy," the Minister of Agriculture said.

One mistake was to ask for support applications to be submitted in the new system of the Rural Support Service, which was not actually ready for it. "It [the error] must be eliminated now, and it has been eliminated. Farmers will not have this requirement for mandatory input into the system," said Krauze.

In order to reduce bureaucracy, the Ministry of Agriculture is also preparing changes in the strategic plan for receiving support, which, according to the rules of the European Union, can only be changed once a year.

"Currently, farmers' organizations come together with the responsible persons of the Ministry of Agriculture, [to] develop proposals that will be forwarded to Brussels. This is a process that cannot be done in a week," Krauze said.

The minister admitted that farmers' demand for the reduction of the value-added tax rate to 5% for fruits and vegetables is another example of something that is not a "one-week discussion".

"It is a discussion within the government, where all political forces are involved, and such things are usually seen during budget review and preparation. So there are things that we can do and have done. I want to emphasize that we have already done it," said the minister.

Krauze believes that there is no reason for farmers to continue their protests and block Rīga streets with tractors in a week. "As I mentioned, what the farmers want has already been done," the minister said. 

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