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By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
MAJORCAN farmers kicked off Balearic day proceedings a little earlier than officially planned yesterday by handing out seven tons of free fresh Majorcan produce to the general public in protest against the Balearic government's farming policy.

A giant b-b-q was lit at the top of the Borne while gigantic sacks full of potatoes and other local produce , including oranges, lettuces and onions, were opened for the passing public to help themselves.

President of the ASAJA Farmers Union, Biel Company, said that the demonstration, one of a series which farmers have mounted over the past week outside government offices in the Majorcan capital, was organised in protest over the local government's “inefficient” management of the local agricultural sector.

But, he stressed, that yesterday was just an aperitif of more and much larger protests to come. The free-fresh produce demonstration is going to be held every Friday until the middle of May when a giant all-island tractor protest will be organised with hundreds of farmers expected to drive on Palma.

Balearic President Francesc Antich, while agreeing to help the farming community, accused the agricultural sector of ““always being in crisis”. Company yesterday repeated the Union's call for the immediate resignation of the government's Director General for Agriculture, Maria Jose Sausi, and urged the government to start taking the farming sector's predicament seriously. “Not only are we too being crippled by the recession, we have also had a series of natural disasters to cope with over the past six months,” said Company.

An estimated 11 million euros of damage has been caused by the adverse weather but Company said the government has only agreed to 5.4 million euros of aid, less than half.

Exports, such as the potatoes to England, have been seriously curtailed by the Autumn storms and the Winter rain forced many growers to postpone sowing the new crop which will mean that this coming winter's harvest will be delayed again - hitting exports even further.