Global wave of farmers protests from India’s fields to Europe’s farms

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Farmers at India Gate in Delhi

Authorities in the northern part of India have resorted to using tear gas to halt the advance of thousands of farmers who are protesting to demand guaranteed minimum prices for their crops as they attempt to march towards Delhi.

Delhi is encircled by barriers such as razor wire, concrete blocks, and fences on three sides to deter protesters.
The government is concerned about the potential for incidents similar to those in 2020, when a prolonged protest, which only concluded after officials rescinded disputed farming regulations, resulted in numerous fatalities.
However, a little over two years on, farmers contend that not all their issues have been addressed.
Farmers, who are a significant force in Indian elections, are seen by some as crucial, and it’s believed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is eager to avoid alienating them.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is aiming for a third straight term in the upcoming general elections.
Images from Tuesday illustrated dense tear gas clouds being deployed to scatter demonstrators near Ambala, roughly 200 kilometres north of Delhi. Additionally, on Monday, the police used tear gas at the border between Haryana and Punjab states.
Farmers, predominantly from Punjab, express their desire to proceed peacefully through Haryana to Delhi, yet have been prevented from doing so. Altercations between the police and protesters have been reported at the border, with tensions continuing to escalate.
The protests in 2020 saw farmers setting up prolonged blockades on major highways leading to Delhi, representing a significant challenge to Modi’s government.
Delhi experienced significant traffic disruptions on Tuesday due to roadblocks and traffic reroutes by the authorities.
The police have banned large gatherings in Delhi, including at the borders with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states, which the farmers plan to use to enter the city.
In Haryana, where the BJP is in power, internet services have been cut in seven districts until Tuesday. Negotiations between farm union leaders and government officials have not yet resolved the standoff.
Farmers are demanding set minimum prices for their crops to ensure they can sell their produce at government-regulated markets, alongside fulfilling a government promise to double their incomes.
During a meeting on Monday, government officials and farm union leaders reportedly reached an agreement on certain demands, including the dismissal of charges against protesters from the 2020 demonstrations.
However, there was no agreement regarding the minimum support price. After the repeal of the farm laws in 2021, the government proposed establishing a committee to look into ensuring support prices for all agricultural products, though its findings have not been published yet. Over 200 farmer unions are taking part in the protest.
Sarvan Singh Pandher, a high-ranking official of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, has stated their intention to proceed in a peaceful manner, hoping the government will address their demands.
Furthermore, farmers and trade unions have declared a country-wide strike on 16 February, during which agricultural operations will cease, and all village commercial activities, including shops and offices, will shut down, with major roads across the nation to be blocked by farmers.

  • Meanwhile, farmers in the EU are staging protests against a backdrop of stringent agricultural policies and environmental regulations, which they claim hamper their competitiveness on an international scale.

These demonstrations have taken root in various EU countries, drawing attention to the widespread discontent among the agricultural community.
In Spain, farmers have been particularly vocal, with protests emerging on the outskirts of cities such as Pamplona.
These actions mirror the unrest in other European nations, including France, Germany, and Italy, where farmers have also taken to the streets and blocked key infrastructure to voice their concerns.
The protests address a multitude of issues, including the perceived overreach of EU regulations, the challenges posed by Brexit, and the adverse effects of global market pressures on local farming practices.
Key grievances among the protesting farmers include the decline in product prices amidst rising operational costs, the threat of competition from cheaper imports, and the impact of environmental directives they deem unrealistic.
This discontent has found resonance in the political arena, where far-right and populist parties have begun to outwardly align with the farmers’ cause, criticising the EU’s approach as detached from the realities of rural life.
The protests are further fuelled by structural challenges within the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which critics argue favours large-scale operations at the expense of smaller farms, leading to increased consolidation and financial strain.
Additionally, the agricultural sector has faced significant pressures from recent global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the geopolitical tensions stemming from the war in Ukraine, which have led to soaring costs for essentials like fuel, fertilisers, and transport.
Governments and EU institutions have started to respond to the escalating protests with a mix of concessions and policy adjustments.
These include revising environmental legislation, reevaluating subsidy distributions, and engaging in dialogue to address farmers’ demands.

  • Moreover, in Wales, farmers have been protesting against new tree-planting requirements and water quality regulations.

These protests are a response to the Welsh government’s consultations on a new subsidy scheme intended to replace the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which provided farmers direct subsidies for food production.
Under the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) set to start in 2025, farmers would need to allocate 10% of their land for tree planting and another 10% for wildlife habitat to qualify for subsidy payments.
Farmers’ unions have criticised these requirements, claiming they threaten the viability of farming businesses.
This has led to significant demonstrations, including a tractor blockade at the office of Wales’ Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths on 12 February.
A notable protest occurred at a Carmarthen showground on 8 February, drawing around 3,000 participants. Protesters displayed a coffin inscribed with ‘In memory of Welsh farming’, alongside signs such as ‘RIP Welsh farming’ and ‘No farmers, No food’.
This latter slogan belongs to a newly formed campaign group that has criticised the government’s climate targets, suggesting that farming is being unduly sacrificed for net-zero ambitions.
In addition to tree-planting and wildlife habitat requirements, Welsh farmers have expressed frustration with changes to nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) regulations and the country’s bovine TB eradication policy, which excludes badger culling as a disease prevention measure.
NFU Cymru president, Aled Jones, emphasised the deep concern within the farming community about the SFS proposals and their potential impact on individual businesses. He urged stakeholders to participate in the ongoing consultation process and express their views.
In light of the protests, the Rural Affairs Minister is scheduled to meet with union leaders to discuss the concerns raised about the SFS and the future of Welsh farming.