Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Greece farmers demand subsidies at Athens protest march

Greek farmers march outside parliament in Athens, 25 January 2010
Marchers chanted: 'They are drinking our blood, farmers fight back!'

Hundreds of Greek farmers have marched through the capital Athens demanding more subsidies and higher prices for their goods.

The rally came after 10 days of nationwide protests by farmers who blocked main roads with their tractors.

The campaign has increased pressure on a government already wrestling with an acute economic crisis.

But the government said its austerity programme left it no room to accede to the farmers' demands.

"The government is determined to get the country out of the crisis," Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli said after meeting farming union representatives on Sunday. "It can't afford the money they are asking for."

Austerity measures

Carrying placards and black flags, several hundred marchers took to the streets of central Athens on Monday chanting: "They are drinking our blood, farmers fight back!"

Earlier, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou called on the protesters to call off their action, saying it was worsening Greece's reputation internationally.


Plea to farmers over Greece blockades

The government estimates last week's roadblocks lost Greek exporters, including farmers, some 200m euros (£175m).

Greece's national debt now exceeds its annual GDP and the country's credit rating is slipping.

As a member of the euro, Greece is supposed to stay within strict deficit boundaries. But it is more than four times over the limit.

The Socialist government is attempting to impose swingeing austerity measures in order to cut the country's deficit.

These measures include a cut in public spending, reductions in allowances awarded to public sector workers, and a change to the way pensions are funded.

More protests against the cutbacks are planned. Next month, public sector workers are planning to down tools for a day. Private sector unions are considering whether to join in, and turn the event into a full-scale general strike.

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