June 19, 2010 - Tobacco growers from the Bulgarian regions of Silistra, Plovdiv and Blagoevgrad begin Wednesday, June 16th long-term mass protests over unpaid subsidies in the amount of BGN 116 M (85.45 M USD).
The above amount was promised by the cabinet of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party and is a compensation for the 2009 tobacco crop.
The organizers say the rallies will be peaceful. Anywhere between 7 000 and 10 000 people are expected to demonstrate in the Danube town of Dulovo, 5 000 in the southern town of Gotse Delchev, and about 3 000 in the southern town of Parvomay. Many of the tobacco growers have threatened to also go on hunger strike.
The organizers further say they will continue the protests until the Agriculture Ministry fulfills the clauses of the agreements and pays the subsidies, which were supposed to be received in March. The next deadline was slated as June 23, but the tobacco growers are weary because the revised budget would not be approved by then. The statement of Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, who said the budget would not need to be updated if the State stopped giving money to tobacco producers stirred even more tensions. (Bulgaria - govt no more tobacco growers protests over subsides..)
Mihail Velkov, Executive Director of the Milk Producers’ Association has stated that a number of the Bulgarian tobacco farmers, whose employment is problematic as the state is planning to cut their subsidies, could turn to sheep breeding for a living because of the great potential of this sector. (Bulgarian Farmers Hope to Export Sheep Milk to China, Saudi Arabia, Novinite.com, 6/30/2010)
Reference: Bulgarian Tobacco Growers Begin Mass Protests, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), 6/16/2010.
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