Saturday, August 14, 2004

Reality check for Polish farmers

Not yet four months have elapsed since Poland joined the EU and already – as widely predicted – its farmers are in trouble. "Old Europe" producers, subsidised to the hilt – while Polish farmers receive only 55 percent of CAP subsidies – have driven down the prices of soft fruits, grain and rape seed, which are now below production costs.

This has already caused local food shortages in the shops (see earlier report) and is now causing huge frustration in the countryside. There have been several protests, including road blocks around Warsaw, with farmers demanding higher prices for their crops.

As 91 percent of Poland's five million farmers earn only around £100 per month, the EU-funded offer of a pension of £200 per month for those who leave the land is looking extremely attractive.

This, however, applies only to farmers of 55 years of age and over, leaving younger farmers, and especially those with families, increasingly desperate. Few believe prices will get better in the near future, suggesting that the situation will get increasingly volatile.

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