Agriculture Minister Kiril Vatev Tuesday described the farmers’ protest near Dolni Bogrov as fair and pointed out that he treats it with great respect. “Each of you is fighting for your right to produce and to get what you deserve from what you produce,” he added during a meeting with the protesters, where he discussed with them the issues of the industry and possible solutions.
Vatev said he is not a professional politician, but he knows the problems of the sector very well. The question is how to solve them, he noted. “A lot has changed since the war in Ukraine and the world has become a different place. We are the closest to this war and we are one of the most affected, together with four other frontline countries,” Vatev pointed out.
He argued that the situation is “much more complex than we are currently imagining”. Unfortunately, none of the solutions suggest an immediate result, Vatev stated.
After being booed and greeted with calls for his resignation, the minister pleaded for a normal, dialogical conversation. “If you want to listen, let us have a normal dialogue, I am ready to answer any questions you will ask me,” he told the farmers.
“You have five demands that have been made by all of you. The decisions that can be taken immediately have already been taken,” the Agriculture Minister said. He explained the actions taken regarding each of the points of the farmers’ demands:
Vatev noted that this year’s state aid for farmers whose crops have been entirely destroyed by disasters has been released and is awaiting applications. “Regarding the extension of the ban on imports of Ukrainian products – there is one month in which we have to determine together our requests for the quantities we can allow and those we do not want to allow,” he explained. The Minister added that BGN 150 million in aid for producers had been secured, and another BGN 63 million will be voted by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday.
Upon Vatev’s arrival at the protest site, farmers poured Bulgarian milk on the road. Traffic was briefly stopped. They explained that with the action they were showing what was happening to Bulgarian milk since Bulgaria imports Ukrainian milk. Symbolically, raspberries and apples were also thrown on the road.
“The state has definitely understood that the industry has united, the people have understood it, the farmers have understood it. We represent all sectors. There are no terrorists here, there are no soldiers, there are farmers who have come to defend their reasonable, genuine wishes,” National Grain Producers Association Chair Ilia Prodanov told the protesters earlier on the day. Representatives of the 26 branch associations from the Initiative Committee of the protests spoke at the rally.
After the meeting with Minister Vatev, the farmers, without their machinery, left for Sofia, where their representatives will participate in a meeting at the invitation of Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov and Finance Minister Assen Vassilev at 3 pm at the Council of Ministers. The protesters asked the leaders of the ruling coalition to join the talks. The farmers will be in front of the government building where they will wait for the results of the talks, the protesters said.