Bulgaria's Tobacco Growers Issue Ultimatum to Government
Bulgarian tobacco growers will stage a protest and blockade Parliament if their demands are not met in 72 hours.
Tsvetan Filev, who chairs Bulgaria's National Association of Tobacco Producers, announced this on Monday in an interview for Bulgarian National Radio, Expert.bg reports.
In Filev's words, over 300 tobacco growers from Haskovo municipality in South Bulgaria have planned to travel to the capital Sofia and demonstrate, setting in fire all remains of their tobacco crops that have not been sold.
They demand that the government decide on higher tobacco subsidies an that a state arbitrary body mediate between growers and corporations buying their production.
Filev insists that tobacco producers have suffered a huge blow from multinationals, which refuse to purchase their goods citing "low quality" and offering to pay half the average price.
Companies such as Bulgarian Bulgartabak and Purvomay BT, however, were mentioned by Filev as "saviors" of tobacco growers.
Both did not have contracts with them, but decided to buy thousands of tons of raw production worth tens of millions BGN.
More than 150 tons of tobacco are still to be bought.
Lyutvi Mestan, the leader of Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), which is in Bulgaria's government, promised on Sunday evening a 50% increase of subsidies per kg of tobacco, which could thus go up BGN 3 from BGN 2.
Mestan hopes that grants to tobacco growers could compensate their low incomes over the past months.
He also proposed that a National Chamber of Tobacco Growers be set up by their representatives, with further legislation to establish relations between them and tobacco companies.
Back in January, disgruntled tobacco growers staged protest rallies blocking the road to Gotse Delchev and Drama (Greece). Some had even stopped their children from attending school and are setting their crop on fire in sign of protest, insist on prices of no less than BGN 6.50 per kilogram of tobacco.
Tensions among them escalated in the first days of 2014, when the belated purchase campaign began at a much lower price than expected - about BGN 5 per kilogram.
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I cannot for the life of me understand why the EU pushed Bulgaria into increasing the growing of tobacco while at the same time trying to stop people smoking. It seems that is may have been a way of changing the crops Bulgaria grows away from those which would make the country self sufficient into those which nobody wants - hence the lack of payment presumably. No country should become a one crop grower mainly intended for export, without ensuring that it can feed its own population from its own land and resources. That is a recipe for disaster