Today's massive protest by farmers from all over the island in Palma against the high price of fuel was still scheduled to go ahead last night despite the Balearic government making it clear yesterday that it is prepared to find a way of bringing fuel prices down in the Balearics. Protesters started to mount pickets across the country ahead of today's proposed demonstration by farmers in Palma. While the government for the moment opposes taking any direct action to break up the current fuel supply monopoly, such a move would in fact be illegal, it does support a proposal to establish a fuel support co-operative involving the farming, fishing and transport sectors, which in turn would enable fuel costs to be reduced. Yesterday deputy Balearic Chief Minister Pere Sampol, who is also Minister for Trade and Industry and the Balearic Minister for Agriculture, met representatives from the regional farmers unions and the small shopkeepers' association. The local government expressed its wishes and interest in reducing fuel prices in the region to acceptable tariffs and the authorities are very interested in the alternative of setting up a fuel co-operative. When he was in opposition Pere Sampol criticised the way in which the Balearic Islands were being held to ransom over fuel prices, which are some of the highest in Spain and he would like to see the supply and distribution monopoly broken. Yesterday, about 20 boats took up position at the mouth of Barcelona port before dawn and prevented commercial vessels from entering, officials said. The protesters agreed to allow passenger vessels through, but 20 vessels were hemmed in the port and another 15 were outside waiting to enter, including container ships and gas tankers, a Barcelona port spokesman said. A spokeswoman for the Barcelona Fishermen's Confederation said the blockade would remain in place.
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