Thousands of farmers hold protest demonstration in Prague

Czech farmers hold protest demonstration in Prague, photo: CTK

Some two to three thousand Czech farmers worried about their livelihoods made their voices heard on Wednesday morning as they gathered in Prague to march to the Office of the Government and both houses of Parliament. Armed with a petition with over 100,000 signatures, the farmers called for an increase in state support to prevent the financial crisis they believe is facing the agricultural sector. Radio Prague's Rob Cameron joined the procession and spoke to us from just outside the Chamber of Deputies:

Czech farmers hold protest demonstration in Prague,  photo: CTK
"It's a very lively atmosphere here. There are about two thousand farmers outside the lower house and they are waiting for their leader to come out. He has just gone in to hand in the petition demanding more financial support from the government and from the European Union. I spoke to a crop farmer earlier and he explained to me that they are here because they don't think that the government is giving them enough financial support and that the government is negotiating a good deal with the EU. He said that he gets very little in subsidies because the EU tends to subsidise dairy farming so he and many like him are having real problems at the moment."

Did he think that this petition is going to help to improve the conditions of Czech farmers? Czech negotiators during accession talks have said that they are already trying to get the best conditions.

"I don't think that he really believed that this was the case. He said that most of his colleagues had very little confidence that the Agriculture Minister and the government as a whole was negotiating the best conditions for them. He also said that the European Union itself should do more to help Czech farmers. When they signed a pact in 1994, they had made concessions to the EU and he said that it was now time for the EU to make some concessions for them, to give them more money to allow them to survive."

Czech farmers hold protest demonstration in Prague,  photo: CTK
I believe that Czech farmers are not only protesting at negotiations with the EU. They have also been hit hard by the floods in August...

"That's right. Some of them have, although I should point out that a lot of them have suffered at the hands of other elements as well. The man I spoke to said that he was from the Vysocina region, which is on higher ground and it was not affected by the floods but by rain and very high wind, which lowered the quality of crops. It was not just the floods but also other poor weather conditions which affected the quality of produce. He also said that crop farmers just won't be able to survive and have enough money to plant new crops next year unless they receive more funding."