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Tractors choke Spanish city streets as farmers protest EU policy

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MADRID: Spanish farmers drove tractors through city streets disrupting traffic on Thursday as they stepped up their protest against soaring costs, bureaucracy, and cheap competition from outside the European Union.
The protests, which started spontaneously on Tuesday after spilling over from other EU countries, are backed by the country’s three main farmers’ associations.
Dozens of tractors surrounded the regional parliament in Barcelona after their drivers spent the night in the city centre.
Farmers disrupted traffic in smaller cities all over the country, including central Avila, Vitoria in the north and Antequera in the south.
Spanish farmers have joined their peers from Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, where protests have sometimes turned violent.
Farmers across the EU claim the rules to protect the environment make them less competitive than farmers in other regions. They also say they are choked by taxes and red tape.
Large amounts of imports from Ukraine, for which the EU has waived quotas and duties since Russia’s invasion, and renewed negotiations to conclude a trade deal between the EU and South American bloc Mercosur have fanned discontent about unfair competition.
The Spanish Interior Ministry said police detained 12 people during Wednesday’s protests that included blockades of several large goods distribution centres. The government and retail associations do not expect imminent food shortages.
The FENADISMER transport federation said the blockades were affecting more than 80,000 trucks.
Since Tuesday, Spanish farmers have blocked highways and ports in Malaga and Castellon and boulevards in Barcelona and elsewhere.
The protests prompted the government to distribute an additional 269 million euros ($290 million) in subsidies for as many as 140,000 farmers and for the European Commission, the EU executive, to scrap a plan to halve pesticide use in the bloc.

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