22-02-2016Gemma Andreu

Financial aid to livestock farmers is to be increased. Demands made for greater assistance because of the impact of agricultural drought on livestock feed have led to the regional government finding half a million more euros. The amount in grants for buying feed will, therefore, go up to two million euros, says agriculture and environment minister, Vicenç Vidal.

With grass forage crops having failed or having been reduced because of the lack of rain from November on, this aid is the most important measure that the government has adopted, but the farming community considers it to be insufficient: it did when the amount was 1.5 million and it still does, despite the increase.

However, this discontent is not universal. The Asaja agricultural businesses association and the union for small farmers (UPA) share the discontent, but the Farmers' Union has expressed its satisfaction in that the amount for goats and sheep has been increased significantly.

Vidal and the regional finance minister, Catalina Cladera, have explained that measures being adopted are extraordinary ones and that an increase in spending will be met by the government and not by the ministry. The grant for livestock feed is due to become available within the next three weeks and Vidal suggested that the resources being devoted had received consensus.

The head of Asaja, Joan Simonet, did not agree with this. "It is totally insufficient because the three months of losses we have suffered are now four. Moreover, prices for forage and feed are being reduced to ones lower than what they really are." Simonet added that Asaja was not ruling out taking protest action.

The UPA leader, Joana Mascaró, agreed that the amount was insufficient and has called for there to be a subvention for forage that has to be bought from the mainland.

Among other measures are new lines of financing that amount to eight million euros. Cladera said that interest on this would be determined by the Euribor rate and would have a one-year grace period.

The former minister for agriculture and the environment with the Partido Popular, Biel Company, has questioned Vidal's management of the drought and has attacked him for having blamed the PP for any problems with desalination plants. He said that the current government was treating the agricultural industry not as the primary industry but as a "primitive" sector. He could not comment on there being protests, akin to the tractor protest organised by Asaja when he was its director. "I'm now a PP deputy. But the industry will know how to defend its interests."

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