Farmers with tractors, posters, and Latvian flags had taken to the streets in a total of 16 Latvian cities. Farmers have made a number of demands to the government and Ministry of Agriculture including reducing red tape in the sector, calling for the immediate suspension of food imports from Russia and Belarus, as well as maintaining a reduced VAT rate on vegetables, fruits, and berries.
Around 100 tractors, heavy agricultural machinery, and harvesters gathered in Daugavpils today, while more than 140 tractors and trucks converged on Rēzekne. In both cities, the most noticeable event for residents was the long parade along the city's main streets.
Like elsewhere in Latvia, different slogans were attached to tractors in Rēzekne and Daugavpils. Farmers called for a ban on imports of Russian and Belarusian food products, a reduction in value-added tax on fruits, berries and vegetables grown in Latvia, as well as a reduction of red tape, as suggested by the slogans. Farmers also emphasized that the range of problems is even larger than mentioned in the list of five main claims submitted by the Farmers' Saeima.
Farmers of Zemgale, with about 150 tractors, also took a protest ride today on a route from the headquarters of the grain cooperative Latraps in Eleja to Jelgava. It is about 20 kilometers of road where a column of agricultural machinery moved slowly, thus creating congestion as well.
The surveyed farmers point out that they have already expressed their concerns on various agricultural policy issues for a long time – import of Russian and Belarusian food, abolition of reduced VAT on vegetables, and bureaucracy, which has come along with the new period of the common agricultural policy. And in the background of all this, so are the unfair direct payments.
Maira Dzelzkalēja-Burmistre, representative of the Farmers' Saeima, concluded after last Friday's talks with Ministry of Agriculture that activity has emerged, but farmers expect some clearer signals this week that they have been heard. Farmers also expect a meeting with Prime Minister Evika Siliņa (New Unity).
A peaceful warning protest took place today, but if the demands are not met, farmers with agricultural machinery will also be ready to travel to Riga on February 12 to express their displeasure.