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Farmers on tractors bring Spain to a standstill while protesting against EU policy

Farmers drive their tractors during a protest in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (Photo by AP)

Thousands of protesting farmers used tractors to block roads across Spain, causing chaos for the third straight day amid Europe-wide protests against heavy regulations cheaper imports, and soaring costs. 

Several columns of slow-moving tractors severely disrupted traffic in various areas of Spain on Thursday, including Valencia in the east, Astoria in the north, and Castilla La Mancha in the center.

Backed by the country's main farmers' unions, COAG, ASAJA, and UPA, have joined the protests for the first time, which had previously planned the Thursday protests.

"If the tractors are protesting, it's because the rural world feels suffocated," ASAJA posted on X, formerly Twitter.

The country’s second-biggest city, Barcelona was flushed in with dozens of tractors that surrounded its regional parliament after almost 1,000 tractors drove to the center of the city a day earlier.

The transport sector federation, FENADISMER, reported that the blockades had an impact on 80,000 trucks and estimated the financial consequences to be around $129 million.

The demonstrations led to the government allocating an extra $290 million in subsidies to support up to 140,000 farmers.

Additionally, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, abandoned its proposal to reduce pesticide usage by 50% within the bloc.

Spain’s interior ministry reported that the police detained 12 people from Wednesday’s blockades, adding that the government and retailers were not prepared for sudden food shortages.

Spilling from other EU countries, especially from France, the protest in Spain went off on Tuesday, ever since farmers blocked highways and ports in Malaga and Castellon and boulevards in Barcelona and elsewhere.

Farmers across Europe are expressing their discontent through widespread protests due to the escalating expenses, exorbitant fuel prices, excessive bureaucracy, and the environmental obligations associated with the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its upcoming "Green Deal".

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has pledged to streamline regulations for the implementation of the CAP and enhance legislation to safeguard farmers from selling their products at a loss, in light of the ongoing protests.

Being one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables, Spain’s agricultural sector has faced difficulties majorly because of the minimal downpour that has plagued the Iberian Peninsula for the last three years.

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