Italian farmers protesting about red tape and cheap imports from outside the EU headed towards Rome in convoys of tractors while their colleagues in the North led a cow through the streets of Milan.
Farmers from agricultural regions including Tuscany set off South towards the capital on February 5, flying the Italian flag and carrying hand-written signs with slogans including: “No farmer, No food”.
They were expected to congregate on the outskirts of Rome pending further protests over the next few days.
“We are going to Rome to seek a confrontation with our politicians to resolve our problems,” said Tuscan farmer Davide Rosati.
The Italian farmers share many of the grievances expressed by their counterparts in other parts of Europe during a wave of protests over the past few weeks.
They complain that their products are being undercut by cheaper imports from areas outside the European Union such as North Africa, rising fuel costs and the impact of EU measures designed to protect the environment and counter climate change.
The protests have eased in France and Germany for now but appear to be growing in intensity in other parts of the EU. Angry farmers on February 5 again blocked the Dutch-Belgian motorway border crossing between Maastricht and Liege.
In Milan, Italy’s financial capital, a small group of farmers took a cow to a protest outside the offices of the Lombardy regional government, an incongruous sight in a part of the city dominated by modern high-rise buildings.
The Italian farmers are also pressing for the reinstatement of an income tax break introduced in 2017, which the current Government dropped in the budget law for 2024.
Speaking during a visit to Japan on February 5, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Italy had done more than some of its EU neighbours to support its farmers.
“Of course, there is always room for improvement, and I am always willing to listen to the demands coming from workers who are essential to us,” she said.
She noted that her Government had maintained fuel subsidies for farmers and increased the funds earmarked for agriculture in the post-Covid recovery plan to €8 billion from €5 billion.
The farmers’ protests in Italy are being led by a number of individual groups and not organised by Italy’s main farming lobby Coldiretti, which has a close relationship with the Government.