Bulgaria’s farmers are joining Europe-wide protests

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Hundreds of angry farmers took to the streets in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, on Monday to complain of what they called “the total failure” of the government to meet the mounting challenges of the agricultural sector.

They called on Agriculture Minister Kiril Vatev to step down for not keeping his promises to ease the administrative burden on the farming sector, to seek state compensation for high costs and falling incomes.

Like their colleagues elsewhere in Europe, Bulgarian farmers are frustrated with domineering European Union regulations, the hardships stemming from the surge in fertilizer and energy costs because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the increasing imports of farm products that are flooding local markets and the undercutting of prices.

Ventsislav Varbanov, who chairs the Association of Agricultural Producers, complained that the government is adding more undue burdens, instead of seeking some relief for the farmers.

“Let me remind you that our interests were not protected neither as the Ukrainian goods flooded us,” he said, referring to cheaper products exported from Ukraine, “nor had we budget guarantees for the losses we suffered because of the war in Ukraine.”

Varbanov pleaded for a long-term government policy: “We want to know what will be in tomorrow, in the next year, in the next five years.”

Meanwhile, the grain producers’ association announced that its members might join the protests on Tuesday by blocking main roads with their farming vehicles.

The association expressed discontent with a statement made by Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov in response to their demands for compensation that only grain producers who can prove a loss for 2023 will receive financial support. The association wants some form of compensation for all grain producers.

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