ATHENS: More than 2,000 Greek farmers gathered in Athens on Tuesday to demand lower taxes, arguing that the rising cost of fuel and electricity was driving them to ruin.
The farmers also called for subsidies from the heavily indebted state, which has been forced to undertake a tough austerity policy, to help them lower their costs and remain competitive.
"The government has not given us anything, no cheap oil, no electricity or VAT, so that we can have competitive products, lower the production cost and not have imported [products]," said Pantelis Moschos, head of the Greek open-air markets producers union.
Unionist Vangelis Boutas claimed the EU was making arrangements to import agricultural products from Brazil, which would harm local farmers. "This is the enemy," he said.
The government, which has committed to the austerity policy in return for EU-IMF bailout loans, has ruled out any major concessions.
"My problems were created by the EU and the government," 56-year-old Cretan farmer Yiannis Psarakis told AFP.
"We don't want charity. We want our pensions to be protected, so that we won't be reduced to beggary," he added.
The farmers came from different parts of the country at the call of the KKE communist party.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras last week promised to lower sales tax on farm produce within the next four years and to facilitate early retirement after the age of 62, five years prior to the nominal retirement age.
The government's austerity drive has provoked several protests and strikes, some of which have turned violent.
In January hundreds of protesting farmers gathered along national highways around the country, threatening to block traffic.
Riot police were forced to intervene to keep the highways open.