Poland offers grain subsidies to angry farmers

by Teresa Acklin
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   WARSAW, POLAND — Poland has offered direct subsidies to grain producers, following a brief nationwide protest in May in which angry farmers barricaded roads in an effort to force the government to provide extra help to the impoverished agriculture sector.

   Although final talks were to be held in June, the government has proposed a subsidy of 60 zlotys (U.S.$15) per tonne of wheat and increased intervention purchases of pork and milk. With the subsidy, Polish farmers will receive U.S.$128 per tonne for food-grade wheat, far above international prices of about U.S.$90 per tonne.

   The subsidies mark a shift in the government's farming policy, which until now was generally aimed at keeping prices above a minimum level by purchasing grain and produce on the market without paying direct subsidies to farmers. Impoverished farmers wanted higher tariffs on grain and dairy imports from the European Union, more state purchases of produce to help bolster prices and a freeze on loan repayments. Farmers complained that E.U. grain and produce was being dumped in Poland at below market prices, driving them out of business.

   The protests mirrored a 10-day roadblock campaign in February that forced the government to meet many of the farmers demands for better protection against foreign competition.