Farmers' highway blockades in Catalonia to continue 'indefinitely'

Demonstrators demand dismissal of Catalan water agency director and renaming of Climate Action Department

Tractors block highway during protests on Tuesday, February 27.
Tractors block highway during protests on Tuesday, February 27. / Marta LLuvich

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

February 28, 2024 09:55 AM

February 28, 2024 09:08 PM

The farmers’ blockade of Catalonia’s highways, which began on Tuesday morning, will continue indefinitely. Demonstrators have blocked the AP-7 highway in Girona, the AP-2 and A-2 in Lleida, and several other secondary roads. 

The spokesperson for the Revolta Pagesa platform, Martí Planas, said the government's offer was "a joke" and reiterated two recent demands: a change in the name of the ministry - now called the Department of Climate Action - and the dismissal of the director of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA), Samuel Reyes.

Agricultural workers have spent weeks protesting not only in Catalonia but across Spain and Europe, against excessive bureaucracy, drought measures that severely hamper their work, and the fight against what they see as “unfair competition from imports” outside the European Union.

Since a meeting on Tuesday between Catalan government officials and farmers representatives of the Revolta Pagesa platform didn’t produce the “expected results,” the agricultural workers have decided to extend their blockade until they receive further assurances from the government.

The Catalan Minister for Climate Action, David Mascort, did not attend the meeting, citing personal reasons, to the regret of the farmers.  

On Wednesday, farmers from Girona joined the protests, demanding a meeting with Mascort and saying they are ready to continue protesting if a meeting doesn’t take place.

Similar to Tuesday’s protests, the farmers are blocking the highways AP-7 in Pontós, the A-2 in Tàrrega, the AP-2 in Soses, as well as border crossings in Girona, Plana de Lleida, Puigcerdà, and Coll d’Ares, joined by French farmers from the union Confédération Paysanne, according to the Catalan Farmers’ Union (UP).

Some 1,200 tractors have joined Wednesday’s protests, according to the UP.

Protests are also expected on Wednesday in Tarragona, Plana de Lleida, and Alt Urgell.

To learn more about the farmers' protests, listen to the latest episode of our podcast, Filling the Sink.

Why are farmers protesting?

Red tape is farmers' main concern across Europe. They argue that EU bureaucracy is overly complicated and time-consuming, leading to wasted resources on paperwork. 

Experts note that strict European regulations are affecting farmers' profit margins, with excessive controls on traceability, mandatory training, changing regulations, and challenges in processing subsidies.

While European farmers struggle with burdensome red tape and adhere to strict environmental and food safety laws, a significant portion of the food consumed in the EU is sourced from countries outside the bloc at significantly lower prices.

Catalonia is also experiencing its worst drought on record, and farmers have been facing water restrictions for nearly three years.

Recently, the Catalan government declared a drought emergency in the Ter-Llobregat system, which supplies water to 6 million people. In this area, farmers have had to reduce irrigation by 80% and livestock farmers by half.