Serbia and agriculture: Suspension of road blockades, farmers and government reach “partial agreement” – BBC News in Serbian

Phonet/Marko Dragoslavić

On the ninth day of the protest, the farmers reached a “partial agreement” with the Government of Serbia, which implies that they will stop blocking certain roads, but they also said that they will “stay by the roads”.

Farmers, who previously asked the state to allow them to buy fuel without paying excise duty and value added tax, announced that their demands were “partially fulfilled”, but the details of the agreement are not known for now.

“Protests will be relaxed, which means that we will stop the blockades, but we will stay by the roads and we will be ready to take tractors to them again,” said farmer Mileta Slankamenac after two hours of negotiations with the Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabić.

These were the first negotiations between the authorities and the protesting farmers, and the authorities have called each other for several days to talk, which both sides refused.

Roadblocks in Serbia, mainly in Vojvodina, lasted from Monday, November 13.

Negotiations are expected to continue on Sunday, and as announced, they will be held in the Vojvodina village of Kisač, not far from Novi Sad, where farmers had already invited government representatives to negotiations in the previous days, but they were not held then.

Brnabić and farmers
Representatives of agricultural associations at a meeting with Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of the Government of Serbia

Why did the farmers protest?

They are dissatisfied because, they say, the government did not fully fulfill the previous agreement from May, and the highest representatives of the government criticize them, claiming that they got everything and that it is a politically motivated protest before the elections.

After mutual calls for negotiations – which so far have not happened – the farmers have radicalized the protest since Friday, November 17, expanding the blockades to new towns and roads.

The Association of Agricultural Producers of Subotica previously said that their struggle is “human, civil and peasant, without a ‘leader’, without representatives and without any political connotation”, they stated in a statement that the BBC had access to.

They also demand subsidies per hectare of 300 euros, “blue diesel” without excise duty for 100 liters per hectare, that is, for diesel at all pumps to be excise-free plus VAT from January 1.

They are also looking for regulation of the traffic market and the commodity exchange, which, as they pointed out, they agreed on back in May.

They also submitted a list of demands for 2024 to the Ministry of Agriculture, which includes subsidies and incentives.

Jelena Tanasković, the Minister of Agriculture, previously claimed that everything that was agreed had been fulfilled.

The farmers then reiterated that, although previously agreed, “the market has not been regulated” in the meantime, and the agreements regarding blue diesel and drainage have not been fulfilled either.

What did Vucic say?

Aleksandar Vucic

The President of Serbia said earlier that the Paora protest was politically motivated.

“With most people, a solution is always found, it is really disgusting for me to see before every election, literally before every one, that everyone thinks they are blackmailing you and asking you for what they want,” he said.

He adds that the state helps farmers, but he called some of them “fraudsters”.

“When they bring the bill that they paid for ‘blue diesel’, it (the state) pays, and they struggle to come to the pump so that they don’t pay, so it’s either you collapse the system or we don’t ask for money from those who lied that they grew wheat and turnips, and there was a forest,” said Vučić.

He continued: “The state sees from satellite images where the forest was, and it wants to give money to real farmers and peasants, not fraudsters.”

“When you look at the numbers, when you look at the facts to see how much money has been invested, and whether it is enough, but it is not, the life of farmers is not easy,” said the President of Serbia.

When did the protest start and what was blocked?

From Monday, November 13, farmers blocked a number of roads and local roads in Vojvodina, and deployed tractors and other vehicles in front of the entrance to the Novi Sad refinery.

Representative of an association of Mileta Slankamenac that it was done symbolically – because of the excise tax of 50 dinars.

Regarding the demands of farmers related to blue diesel, Minister of Agriculture Jelena Tanasković said that the farmers’ money is being returned.

“Farmers receive a fiscal invoice that they just take a picture of, send, and immediately receive money – 50 dinars.”

“All farmers who have agricultural cards will pay 179 dinars per liter for diesel at the NIS pumps, and then they will get a refund of 50 dinars, based on the excise tax we are talking about,” the minister told RTS.

farmers, protest
Phonet/Marko Dragoslavić
On November 13, farmers from the association Složni Pidikanci from Bavanište blocked the old road from that village to Pančevo, demanding from the Government of Serbia the complete fulfillment of all the signed demands

The Novi Sad portal 021 reports that the “Initiative for the Survival of Serbian Farmers”, “Our Milk”, “Association of Agricultural Producers of Subotica”, “Salvation and Survival of Livestock Farmers of Western Serbia”, “Union of Farmers’ Associations of Banat”, “Milk Producers of Šumadija and Pomoravlja” are taking part in the protest. ” and “Aradac Farmers’ Association.”

The protests were supported by several opposition parties, as well as the United Syndicat Sloga.

farmers, protest
Phonet/Marko Dragoslavić

The farmers’ protest was supported by the celebrated actress Svetlana Bojković, who visited them on the first day of the blockade in the town of Čenta.

“Farmers are protesting because they are fed up,” she told Television N1.

Svetlana Bojković has been politically active for many years and often participates in various protests.

Her reaction during the ecological protest in the Reva reservoir near Belgrade is also well known – remember that in this video.

What are farmers looking for? for 2024?

farmers, protest
Phonet/Marko Dragoslavić
  • Subsidies per hectare for plant production – 35,000 dinars, no later than March 31 of the current year;
  • Premium for milk 19 dinars per liter;
  • Subsidized loans throughout 2024 with an interest rate of one percent, which can be used to refinance existing loans;
  • Deletion of farmers from the credit bureau;
  • Incentives for breeding dairy cows – 40,000 dinars per head;
  • One-time incentive for rearing heifers on the transition to the breeding cow category – 100,000 dinars;
  • Abolition of the limit of 19 head of cattle for the procurement of equipment for livestock production;
  • Stimulation for raising fattening cattle of domestic breeds (not imported) – 25,000 dinars per head;
  • Solving the problem of debts and finding a solution to amend the PIO Act for farmers.

Marko Gabrić from the Association agricultural producers of Subotica for the BBC

Previous protest

Farmers previously protested in May when they also blocked roads across Serbia.

The protests ended after several days of negotiations with the government.

farmers, protest
Dejan Trajković
Farmers from Bavaniste blocked the old road leading to Pančevo with tractors in May 2023.

At that time, the farmers demanded an increase in subsidies per hectare of arable land, that the premium for a liter of milk be 20 dinars instead of 15, and that the minimum purchase price of milk be 78 dinars per liter plus value-added tax (VAT).

It was also requested that excise duty and value-added tax (VAT) not be calculated on diesel fuel, that a surcharge (protective tax) be introduced on dairy products imported from the European Union and the signatory countries of the CEFTA agreement (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria , Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Montenegro and Serbia).

It was also requested that the current subsidy per cow of 30,000 dinars be increased by 10,000 dinars.

The Minister of Agriculture, Jelena Tanasković, said at the time that “absolutely everything from the list of farmers’ demands has been fulfilled, except for the payment of 300 euros per hectare”, which she stated was not legally feasible.

On Wednesday, November 15, she also said that subsidies for 2024 will be 100 billion dinars, calling on farmers’ associations to present proposals on the distribution of money.

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The article is in Serbian

Tags: Serbia agriculture Suspension road blockades farmers government reach partial agreement BBC News Serbian


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