Serb farmers block roads in protest before election
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Since: Oct 11
Srbe na Vrbe
#1 Mar 30, 2012
PANCEVO, Serbia: Hundreds of Serbian farmers driving tractors blocked roads across the country's agricultural heartland in a protest over subsidies that could damage the ruling coalition ahead of a May election.
The farmers set off from Serbia's northern Vojvodina region on Thursday, heading for the capital to protest against a new programme of subsidies that they say favours major landowners over small farms.
They were stopped by police at several junctions north of the capital, where they remained on Friday blocking traffic between several towns.
"The state should support all farmers, because if we have strong farmers we will have a strong economy," said farmer Jan Husar, one of the protest leaders.
The main highway between Belgrade and the northern city of Novi Sad remained open.
But a prolonged protest could dent support for the ruling coalition led by President Boris Tadic's pro-Western Democratic Party as it heads into a parliamentary election on May 6.
The Democratic Party is already trailing in polls behind the opposition populist Serbian Progressive Party.
Agriculture is a key part of the ex-Yugoslav republic's economy, accounting for around 12.7 percent of gross domestic product in 2011. That year, the country exported $2.24 billion of farm produce.
The government's subsidies programme outlines premiums per delivered kilogram rather than per hectare. Farmers say the change favours major landowners, wholesalers and retailers who benefit from economies of scale.
"This will cripple small producers, who have to use some of the crops to feed cattle and who have no storage capabilities," Husar told Reuters.
The farmers pledged to maintain the road blocks until the government meets their demands. The northern Vojvodina region borders European Union members Hungary and Romania and Serbia's fellow ex-Yugoslav republic Croatia to the west.
Serbian Agriculture Minister Dusan Petrovic, a deputy leader of the Democratic Party, dismissed the complaints as unfounded.
"The new premiums are more feasible and ... farmers should use the springtime for sowing crops rather than protesting," he said in comments on state television.
Serbia exports mainly corn, sugar, wheat, strawberries, apples and sunflower oil.
Since: Feb 10
#2 Mar 31, 2012
Listen to your farmers.
They feed your children.
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