A nation-wide protest of farmers against excessive food imports, called for noon on April 16, fizzled when fewer than expected farmers turned out to blockade Slovak border crossings.
The farmers were protesting against excessive imports of food and agricultural products to Slovakia. They maintain that almost 73% of food consumed in Slovakia is imported, and argue that excessive imports lower the economic power of farmers and their ability to ward off foreign competition.
Farmers blame the situation on the low agricultural subsidies provided by the government in comparison with other countries, making Slovak products more expensive. They accuse the cabinet of showing no interest in supporting the export of Slovak farm products to European markets.
According to organisers of the failed protest, farmers were to have blocked border crossings for half an hour at noon in a protest action called "Stop Excessive Imports of Food." Sirens were also supposed to have blared for two minutes throughout Slovakia from sites set up by the Slovak Chamber of Agriculture and Food Industry, the organiser of the protest.
The Slovak-Austrian border crossing Bratislava-Berg witnessed the arrival of only three truck drivers who failed to block the road, pulling their vehicles over to the side instead. At noon they started to blow their horns, and the few farmers present spread a banner protesting imports of agro-products across the road. After three minutes, however, they took the banner down and left the border crossing.
Cyril Moravčík, leader of the crisis committee established by the Agricultural Chamber, called the protest "a fiasco." He added that the Chamber had laid greater emphasis on an action at the Slovak-Hungarian border crossing of Bratislava-Rajka, which had better road access for agricultural machinery.
Approximately 15 farm vehicles showed up at Bratislava-Rajka and blocked the road for five to ten minutes. Participants blamed the thin turn-out on the fact that the missing farmers were at work in their fields, where "every hand is necessary."
The Slovak-Polish border-crossing in Vyšný Komárnik, one of the biggest border crossings for trucks in Slovakia, also saw fewer protesting farmers than expected, as did the Slovak-Hungarian border crossing of Sena-Tonosnemeti.
Agricultural Chamber director Dufala said that he was still waiting for reports from regional chambers on the course of the protest at individual border crossings, but said that he blamed farmers for the failure of the strike.
If the Friday protest did not draw action from the government, he said, farmers would resort to other forms of protest. Farmers from eastern Slovakia have already threatened to pile dung in front of the Office of the Government in Bratislava.
26. Apr 1999 at 0:00 | SITA