Government approves rescue package for farm sector

Protesting farmers use tractors to block A-4 highway at Carmona, in Andalucía. Photo: El Mundo
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The government’s Consejo de Ministros executive cabinet on Tuesday used Spain’s express Decreto Ley process to approve a package of 14 measures designed to remedy problems that have depressed prices on farm commodities and provide relief to farm workers workers facing layoffs as a result of the the crisis in Spain’s agricultural sector.

Farmers protesting the ongoing crisis in the agricultural sector stepped up their protests in recent weeks, using tractors to block major highways and parade through regional capital cities, paralyzing traffic in an effort to draw attention to the problems in the countryside.

On Tuesday, the Consejo de Ministros responded to the crisis with express legislation containing 14 measures, chief among which is a measure that mandates that wholesale buyers of farm commodities cannot offer to pay a price that is less than the cost of production born by farmers.

► News Sources: El Diario, Onda Cero and El Mundo …

In addition, the package approved Tuesday will stop wholesalers or retailers from dumping products into the retail market through promotions that offer farm products to the public at below-cost prices, with the exception that perishable goods nearing their sell-by dates can be marked down to quickly move them off the shelves of grocery stores and supermarkets.

Agrcultural Minister Luis Planas told reporters in a press conference following Tuesday’s cabinet meeting that the measures are designed to help toward reversing the deterioration that farmers are seeing in the income from their crops without causing significant price increases for consumers at the supermarket till.

With regard to agricultural workers, the package approved includes measures that will give an income tax break to younger employees who are entering the farm labour market for the first time, thereby hoping to encourage young people to remain in rural areas rather than migrating to towns and cities in search of work.

Another measure designed to benefit farm workers is a reduction in the required minimum number of days that a temporary agricultural worker is unemployed before being able to claim unemployment benefits from the current 35 days to just 20. At the same time, agricultural employers will be offered bonuses by the government to encourage them to convert precarious temporary worker contracts into indefinite or permanent full-time contracts, thereby promoting greater stability in the labour market in Spain’s rural areas.

As a Decreto Ley, the legislation becomes effective immediately upon publication in the government’s official BOE gazette on Wednesday, subject to approval with no debate or amendment within 30 days in Congress on a straight yes-no vote by congressional deputies.

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