Farmers protested at Toompea in Tallinn on Tuesday demanding politicians take a more serious attitude towards agricultural and food production and for more domestic and EU support.
Around 100 tractors were driven to the Riigikogu and parked outside on Tuesday morning. At the protest, organized by the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce (EPCC), farmers gave each Riigikogu member a toy tractor with the message, "Play with me, not with food!".
Farmers are demanding an increase in national funding and an increase in EU support to the European Union average level.
Chairman of the Board of the EPCC Roomet Sõrmus said the toy tractors represented farmers' frustration with constantly broken promises.
"Farmers have seen too many neatly wrapped-up promises made by politicians that have ultimately proven to be empty. We would really like to believe that Estonia's rural affairs and agriculture aren't some fifth-rate issue for the Riigikogu and the government coalition," Sõrmus said.
On Wednesday, the Riigikogu will hold its third reading of the state budget, which will confirm the final volume of national agricultural compensation in 2020, which was been reduced. The European Union will give €15.3 million in domestic compensation.
Farmers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have organized joint demonstrations in Brussels in the past, in 2013 and 2018; a February 2013 meeting agreed minimum direct payments of €196 per hectare and, while the EU average is €260 per hectare, the figure is estimated at €170 per hectare for Estonia in 2020, according to daily Postimees reports.
The EPCC estimates the European Union has saved over 600 million euros at the expense of Estonian farmers in the period 2014-2020, paying far below the average, while full compliance with production requirements and provision of public goods has been demanded.
"As everyone has to comply with the requirements set, lower compensation than other member states means for the Estonian farmer, first and foremost, a higher debt burden, less competitiveness and an artificial price advantage for our competitors' production," Sõrmus said.
On Dec. 6, the EPCC and the Estonian Farmers' Confederation began collecting signatures for a petition calling for fair competition for Estonian farmers.
Editor: Helen Wright