Bulgarian Tobacco Producers Launch Nationwide Protest over Distribution of Subsidies
Bulgarian tobacco producers are staging a nationwide protest over the distribution of state subsidies.
Tobacco producers will organize road blocks at the Danube Bridge, the road to Greece at Gotse Delchev, and the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing point on the Bulgarian-Greek border at noon on Friday, according to reports of Sega daily.
Starting Monday, scores of tobacco producers in two northwestern villages in the Silistra municipality and the Tutrakan municipality are going on a hunger strike.
The disgruntled industry representatives called for the resignation of the Agriculture Minister at a meeting in Parvomay, stressing the flawed method of distribution of state subsidies in the sector.
Asen Kyuchukov, Deputy Chair of the National Association of Tobacco Growers (NAT-2010), explained in a Monday interview for the Bulgarian National Radio that the Association sought the reinstatement of the previous method of distribution of subsidies.
He expressed the opposition of NAT-2010 to the plans of the Agriculture Ministty to allocate 96% of the resources to small producers, i.e. the group uniting the largest number of producers.
Kyuchukov emphasized that large-scale producers “provided jobs to at least 50 000 people more.”
The Deputy Chair of NAT-2010 noted that an initiative committee had been organized to coordinate the protests, adding that attempts to apply discriminatory practices would not be tolerated.
Kyuchukov said that NAT-2010 had decided on Sunday to withdraw confidence from the Chair of the Association, Tsvetan Filev, stressing that NAT-2010 distanced themselves from any media statements of Filev.
He declared that representatives of NAT-2010 would take part in talks with the government, provided that they were invited to do so.
“We do not want extra money. The matter involves the manner of distribution,” Kyuchukov argued.
He said that tobacco producers in the northwestern town of Isperih were going on a hunger strike.
Meanwhile, Mehmed Dikme, former Agriculture Minister in the government of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, announced in a Monday interview for Nova TV that a fraud scheme in the sector drained the state budget of BGN 40 M a year.
He underscored that the fraud scheme did not involve EU funds but allocations under the state budget.
Dikme, as cited by Sega daily, said that he had informed the State Agency for National Security (DANS) about the scam two years ago.
He suggested that there were people who received hundreds of thousands of leva in subsidies without growing tobacco.
Dikme recommended a probe of all tobacco producers receiving a subsidy of over BGN 20 000.
He also suggested that the authorities could launch inspections in the regions of Haskovo, Svilengrad, and Krumovgrad for people close to acting politicians or MPs that were receiving subsidies unlawfully.
Dikme claimed that the fraud scheme had been designed by a minister and the executive director of the former Tobacco Fund, the state unit in charge of subsidies for tobacco growers, in 2007-2008.
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