Catalan farmers call for policy changes ahead of European elections

Urge for equal conditions for third-country products to have same standards requirements and reducing bureaucracy among other requests

Pere Roqué farmer from Asaja union at his fruit field
Pere Roqué farmer from Asaja union at his fruit field / ACN

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

May 28, 2024 02:29 PM

Catalan farmers have been demonstrating since February for better working conditions. Back then, thousands of tractors occupied Barcelona and Catalonia's roads, while farmers protested in Plaça Sant Jaume square in front of the Catalan government headquarters.

The next protest will block the French border on June 3, amid political campaigning for the European elections

Farmers' unions and organizations point to the EU as the main culprit behind an agricultural policy that has left more than six million farmers across Europe behind. Twelve years ago there were 15.5 million farmers in the continent, but now there are only 9.5 million, Jaume Bernis, a farmer and member of the JARC union, told the Catalan News Agency (ACN)


"All European farmers have the same problem," Néstor Serra, from Unió de Pagesos, the largest farmers' union in Catalonia, told ACN. Serra works in one of the most agricultural counties, el Segrià, in inland Catalonia. 

European problem

The main complaint of the farmers is the low price they receive for the products, given the high production costs. In addition, they consider products from outside the EU to be unfair competition.

EU production requirements are stricter than those set by the World Trade Organization (WTO), but products grown to lower standards can still enter the European market. 

"Farmers in EU member states have to make a greater effort than farmers from countries outside the EU," Simón says.

At the same time, farmers are calling for uniform rules across Europe.

Sheep herd at Pallars mountains
Sheep herd at Pallars mountains

"Some guidelines come from Europe, Madrid [the Spanish government] tightens them up a bit, and then each autonomous community applies them as they want," Gerard Cardona, a member of the Revolta Pagesa organization, said.

Yes to sustainability, but revised

Unlike other farmers' organizations in Europe and Spain, the Catalan ones support the government's commitment to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but propose some changes to ease the pressure on them.

The first is the ban on some phytosanitary products used to control pests in the harvest. This causes losses and inequalities beyond the countries where its use is allowed. 

"[We say] yes to a sustainable production, yes to being the best in the world in terms of food safety, but before we get rid of the methods, we need to do a sensitivity analysis," Manel Simón, Afrucat CEO, Catalonia's fruit business group, said.

Farmers also point to the new Animal Welfare Law, which adds new conditions to livestock production, making it more difficult and expensive.

Inland Catalonia chicken farm
Inland Catalonia chicken farm

In view of the EU elections taking place on June 9, farmers continue to battle to reduce bureaucracy, one of the most important requests seen during the Catalan demonstrations, but also in protests in other European countries. 

They point to European authorities as the main responsible for the increase in bureaucracy and urge to find a consensus with member states that also add more paperwork.

Gerard Cardona farmer with his flock of sheep in the background
Gerard Cardona farmer with his flock of sheep in the background

On June 3, farmers will, once again, take to the roads to get what they believe is a struggle that affects everyone. More than 15 organizations from both territories will participate in a Spanish-French border blockade. 

Their main goal is to increase pressure because, as they claim during the protests: "Our end is your hunger."