The Minister of Agriculture today guaranteed the payment of another 25% of the Ecoregimes subsidies by March 15, said the farmers’ representatives who met with the minister this afternoon in Macedo de Cavaleiros, Bragança district.
So, in total, by March organic and integrated farmers will have received 90% of the aid, with 10% still to come, which will be paid in June.
Maria do Céu Antunes arrived at the town hall in Macedo de Cavaleiros, the venue for the meeting, saying only “good afternoon everyone” to the 100 or so farmers waiting for her in the street, who responded with whistles and phrases like “Trás-os-Montes is also Portugal”.
After the meeting, which lasted around two hours, Armindo Lopes, one of the six farmers’ representatives who took part in the talks, explained that this 25% refers to the cuts of up to 35% that were announced and which have since been reversed, leaving 10% to be paid by June 25th.
According to Armindo Lopes, the minister explained that the payment of this 25% is what the government currently has the financial availability to do, without the approval of Brussels, which will now have to release the remaining 10%. These measures represent a total value of 60 million euros.
Armindo Lopes also explained that last year a new European platform was created to identify all producers in integrated production and organic farming, who now need a certificate. At national level, there are 10 entities that issue this certification.
The assessments were completed on December 31 and the first installment, 65% in most cases, was paid on January 25.
But the farmers who were unable to complete the process have not yet received aid.
On Thursday, following a protest that brought together around 300 farmers in the municipality of Macedo de Cavaleiros and led to the A4 being cut off in both directions, an immediate meeting was set up by videoconference with the minister in charge and another in person for today.
The first installment had already been promised to all farmers by February 24th.
Today, at the second meeting, Armindo Lopes said that some of the demands had been met.
“What we’ve achieved today is that as of March, only 10% will remain for payment, which will be for the last installment that was already on the indicative payment schedule,” he told reporters.
Armindo Lopes also said that with regard to this year’s single application, the Financial Institute for Agriculture and Fisheries (IFAP), represented by its vice-president, Nuno Moreira, and Maria do Céu Antunes, has guaranteed that the system that was in force until 2022 will return, i.e. an advance in October and another payment in December.
Eduardo Almendra, another of the representatives, added that they nevertheless had to give in on other measures requested for the region, such as the inclusion of agricultural diesel as a factor of production, in order to be exempt from VAT.
According to the producer, the caretaker government has no power to review this measure.
Another demand in Trás-os-Montes was the reinforcement of irrigation: “In particular, the creation of a multi-use reservoir at the Baixo Sabor dam. A water efficiency plan for the whole district [of Bragança] is being studied and is already underway,” said Eduardo Almendra.
The farmers say they are stopping the demonstrations for the time being, but will return to the fight if the guarantees are not met. For now, they say, “you have to believe in the people”.
Maria do Céu Antunes then took off for Mirandela for another meeting with farmers from Trás-os-Montes.
As the farmers left Macedo de Cavaleiros, there was another chorus of whistles for the minister, followed by applause for the representatives, who left the Paços do Concelho building a few minutes later to address the press.
The Minister of Agriculture did not speak to journalists. A source at the Ministry said, however, that at the end of the rounds of meetings that have been taking place across the country, an announcement will be made of the conclusions reached.