THE Balearic Farmers Union, Asaja, warned the regional government yesterday that they are planning to toughen their industrial action as of next week, if President Francesc Antich still refuses to meet them to discuss the “grave” issues currently threatening regional farming.

The threat came in spite of a government rescue package of 8 million euros announced yesterday. The Union claimed that the situation is worsening due to the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture is doing nothing concrete to help them.

Union president, Biel Company, was speaking yesterday during a free handout of 3'000 bags of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Borne in Palma - an act which the farmers intend to symbolise the ineffectual policies being pursued by the Ministry and to draw attention to the fact that the farmers are still awaiting the government subsidies promised to them as long ago as 2007 to compensate for loss of production caused by bad weather. It is the second Friday in a row that Asaja has given away tonnes of oranges, potatoes, onions and lettuces, this week slightly more than last when 7 tonnes were handed out. The move is a clear attempt on the part of the farmers to show their frustration at the “poor management, and lack of straightforwardness” on the part of the Ministry. The Farmers' Union are particularly angry over the policies of Agriculture director, Maria Jose Suasi, who - claims Asaja - does little else but try and convince the farmers about accepting terms and conditions which don't help them in the slightest. Biel Company warned the government that his members are “tired” of the situation and reiterated his demand for a meeting with Balearic president Antich. If not, industrial action will be stepped up next week, he said.

Yesterday's free handout was accompanied by a “Farmers' Lunch” which was offering free Majorcan sausage (sobrassada) and black pudding (butifarron) to everyone who wanted it.