Prime Minister Edi Rama invited a group of farmers protesting in front of the Parliament building to discuss their demands, problems and issues affecting farmers.
The Prime Minister attentively listened to the demands presented by farmers on various aspects and issues affecting the farmers’ daily work and explained the way how funds to support farmers are used, putting emphasis on the change to the approach to the government funding.
“Both sides share a common problem as the six percent rate doesn’t end up in the farmers’ pockets. What has really happened? Why do we plan to change this tax rate? Just a few years ago, you used to sell your products in some vendors’ tents and stands along the streets, or you had to transport your products to a bigger market and therefore you lacked any proper storage capacity to store your locally grown produce and sell it when prices go up, but you were forced to go straight to the market as products and crops rotted in the field. Second, selling independently affects the price and therefore you are forced to give your products away just to survive, and not to do business. Third, the companies collecting the agricultural produce, who are actually the ones to throw the stone and hide their hand, have been gaining government support over the years for the investments they have made there. They have been assisted in building the collection centres through joint funding, but they have failed to play the role of the government’s agent to transfer the difference to your accounts,” the Premier said, underlining that the government funding approach is the right one and in the farmers’ best interest.
“I would provide quite a simple argument. If the situation was to be uniform for everyone, I would agree with you. However, the situation is not uniform. Agricultural export figures keep growing today. The country’s agricultural exports from January through October have increased year-on-year. This is all a matter of management and channelling funds to the right direction, and not to the directions leading to the deviation of funding. What has happened? It is all about an amount of $9 million in a sector generating 3.5 billion. Why has a protest been staged? Are you protesting about this amount of $9 million? This amount of money will no longer be granted in the way it used to be distributed, but this amount will be directly disbursed to farmers. Not only that, but this fund has been actually doubled. But how will it be directly transferred to the farmers? Support will be provided to the successful models that bring together a large number of farmers who join their forces. This is the reason we are changing our approach as, after all, the goal is to formalize the sector and determine who does what,” the Premier said.
At the end of the meeting, the government head invited farmers to hold another meeting for them to forward their ideas about the best possible solution. “I promise that we can hold another meeting next week. Today’s meeting was by chance. If you present reasonable ideas, I think we share the same goal. You are not asking the government to throw money in an irrational way. That’s why I would invite you to sit and talk. If you help us by proposing a better idea than our idea, then we would accept your proposal, because we don’t mind it. I am totally available and ready to do the best based on what we can afford. Most importantly, as this conversation showed, we agreed on this issue. I invite you all to sit and discuss together. I would receive you in my office, but I would invite you to provide figures and be prepared for it,” PM Rama said.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Frida Krifca, and the Minister of Finance and Economy Delina Ibrahimaj attended the meeting.
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