Road paralysis in Poland. What do the protesting farmers demand? We explain

Luc Williams

Where will the farmers’ protests take place?

The protests are to cover the whole of Poland, so Traffic disruptions are expected in all voivodeships. Both district roads and routes of greater transport importance, including provincial roads, will be blocked.

The exact location of planned blockades can be checked on an interactive map on which local strike coordinators mark the places where they plan to strike. As of Thursday evening, there are over 250 such points

The scale of Friday’s strike will be similar to that of two weeks ago. Let us remind you: on Wednesday, January 24, over 30,000 tractors hit Polish roads in almost 300 locations throughout Poland.

“As Polish farmers, we protest quite gently anyway. We should learn from the French who stormed Paris. We should also be more radical,” says Forsal Antoni Sidor, a farmer from the Lubartów area in the Lublin Voivodeship, the local coordinator of Friday’s demonstrations.

Who protests and when?

Farmers are protesting – some of them take to the streets as representatives of specific agricultural industries and organizations, and some of the protesters are individual farmers from small, family farms.

“I am non-partisan. I have been non-partisan all my life, the only thing that matters to me is the situation of farmers, I am not interested in political games. And on Friday, as a farmer, I go out on the road,” our interlocutor notes.

The start and end times of blockades vary – they depend on the concepts of individual coordinators. The strikes from two weeks ago lasted two hours in most places, and on Friday they are expected to last three hours.

“In our place, near Lubartów, we go out for three hours. We start the strike at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. About 100 farmers who will arrive with tractors have already confirmed their presence at our point. This is a warning strike for now,” adds Sidor.

What is the reason for farmers’ protests?

This time the strikes are not aimed at the Polish government or the Polish Ministry of Agriculture. At least not directly. The strikers’ main demand concerns the EU’s agricultural policy. According to farmers, imposing further restrictive regulations on European agriculture is killing it. The comments include, among others: to the EU programs “Green Deal” and “Fit for 55”.

“We want to end the regulations that now come to us from Brussels. These are bad laws that are harmful to agriculture. We want Brussels to understand that Polish farmers will fight for their rights until the end,” argues Sidor.

The second reason for the protests focuses on a problem that has been going on for over a year inflow of cheap agricultural raw materials from Ukraine to Poland. Polish producers are outraged by the fact that they themselves have to adapt to restrictive, and therefore costly, quality regulations, while competitors from the East do not have to meet such standards.

This demand is also addressed to Brussels, because Poland – as a participant of the open and duty-free EU market – does not have the prerogative to impose regulations in this area. Although our national embargo on Ukrainian grain has been in force since September last year, the problem is so big and affects so many groups of agricultural products that only the European Union can solve the issue.

“The current regulations coming from Brussels favor Ukraine. We ask ourselves: Does the European Union want to protect its own or promote foreign ones? – Sidor asks rhetorically and adds that Ukrainian agricultural products are of much lower quality, which many Polish consumers are not informed about.

“What goes from Ukraine to the Polish market is of very poor quality. And there is no information on the products that they are goods from Ukraine, Poles buy them unconsciously. We are protesting to publicize this matter so that Polish consumers do not have to eat much lower quality food,” Sidor tells us.

The third demand that Polish farmers are slowly starting to raise concerns national policy. Information appears in the public space that the government wants to go back to imposing a ban on fur farming. This is a topic that was already on the agenda during the PiS government and which was met with huge criticism from farmers.

Is Europe also on strike?

Yes, strikes in Poland are part of pan-European farmers’ protests. For several weeks, MrA wave of agricultural strikes is sweeping across Europe. It started with Poland and Romania, countries bordering Ukraine. The reason for these strikes – at the end of 2023 – was the lack of reaction of the EU and national governments to the inflow of cheap agricultural products from Ukraine. The Polish and Romanian markets, due to their geographical proximity, began to be flooded with Ukrainian grain, sugar, meat and fruit the fastest.

Then, farmers from other countries, mainly Western Europe, joined the protests: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. Their demands focused mainly on the above-mentioned EU policy on agriculture. However, the spark that ignited the fire of protests in Europe was the lack of reaction from Brussels to the inflow of agricultural produce from Ukraine.

In some countries – e.g. Germany, France or the Netherlands – farmers also add “national” demands to the pan-European demands, related to, among others: with fuel subsidies or support for specific branches of agriculture.

What’s next?

It seems that the wave of agricultural protests does not want to subside at all, on the contrary – it increases with each passing week.

Sławomir Izdebski from OPZZ Farmers and Agricultural Organizations informed that farmers will organize another mass protest in two weeks. This time it’s about the so-called starry march on Warsaw. The paralysis of the capital is planned for February 20.

Farmers in the European Union are also organizing further protests. The culmination is scheduled to take place on June 4, when farmers plan to protest once again – although this time in the most noticeable form – in Brussels. The date coincides with the European Parliament elections, which will start two days later.

The Euromanifestation is under the patronage of three agricultural organizations: Farmers Defense Force from the Netherlands, Land Schafft Verbindung Deutschland from Germany and the Institute of Agricultural Economics from Poland.


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