What happens when the farmers organize?

Sixty farmers from Novi Bečej managed to organize and purchase 1700 acres of land from agricultural holdings BD Agro. This is the first time in the history of our country that the purchase of agricultural land was conducted in such way by the farmers, and in a way, win against some of the most powerful Serbian businessmen.

The battle for 1700 acres of agricultural land lasted 46 days. Vladimir Glavaski, one of the innitiators of this idea, who now ownes  new 120 acres of land, says that they don't feel like winers, but that they are happy that they managed to organize themselves. 

He says that, in our present circumstances and the state our country is, he didn't really believe they would pull this trough. 

This agricultural association has managed to push out of the game some major players such as "DELTA AGRAR" (company owned by Miroslav Miskovic), "MK Group" (by Miodrag Kostic), and the meat industry "Matijevic". 

The mediator among the buyers and the seller ( who decided to sell this land because of some financial difficulties) was the President of the Municipality of Novi Becej, Milivoj Vrebalov. He says that this mission was difficult, but they wanted to keep the money within the municipality, rather than see it pouring into accounts of the most powerful companies. Other than keeping the proffit inside the comunity, it would also help keep the young people from leaving the village to find job in the cities, said the President of Municipality.

For the purchase of agricultural land (class I to V), these 63 farmers had to pay the total amount of 7.500.000 €. They all took loans which they would be paying off for years, but they don't care. It was worth buying this land and in that way making a true precedent in the way the agricultural land is purchased in Serbia.

Source: RTV B92

This is just one example of the recent initiatives by the Serbian farmers. We have informations about farmers from Ub organizing to contact the buyers from Russia directly, rather than trough third party companies, which would significantly increase their profit from the sales.

 Also, there is an ongoing project in Banat that assembles the farmers from different villages and gives them an opportunity to advertise their products for free, trough a central system that they can use for closing the deal with the end buyer themselves. 

Our sources say that this project aims to gather as many farmers as possible, from all over Serbia, and connect them, so that they can exchange advice, information and cooperate so that they can achieve better prices for their products and in the end line, the goal is to be able to conduct the sale directly to local and foreign buyers.

Maybe the best example of what the farmers are able to achieve when they organize is the so called "potato movement" in Greece. Its shy beginnings were evident in the past few years, when the farmers gathered and as a form of protest against the low prices that wholesalers and the food industry was imposing on them.

The estimated costs of growing a kilo of potatoes is 0.15€, the farmers were selling it at 0.10€ to wholesalers, and the super markets in big cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki were selling them as much as 0.70€.

Potato Movement in Greece
The farmers decided to publicly dispose of their products, rather than sell them under the existing conditions. Tons of fruits and vegetables, but also milk, was dumped on the streets by the disappointed  farmers who said that the price they were given didn't even cover the producing costs and that the big companies were making profit on their backs. This act, however didn't look good in the public eyes, and people usually reacted by saying: Isn't it better to give that food to those in need, rather than destroing it that way? So, last year, when the economic crisis became more evident in Greece and more people were affected by poverty, the farmers who grew potatoes organized couple of events in Athens, where they shared free potatoes to the passerby's. This eventually grew, as most good ideas do, and someone got the idea that in order to help both the farmers sell their products at fair price, and the impoverished citizens to buy them at an affordable price, the communities should contact the farmers directly and ask for the best offer for large quantities of potatoes. Local Municipalities, groups of volunteers, even the Agricultural Faculty have initiated such actions and they managed to cut the price of potatoes for the consumer from 0.49€ or 0.59€ in green markets and 0.60-0.70€ in big cities super markets, to 0.25€ or 0.30€ per kilo directly from the truck. The sales of potatoes have increased for the farmers, the impoverished communities were able to buy more potatoes for less money and other products such as rice, lentils and beans are following. The pioneer of this project is a group of volunteers from Nea Pieria, called "Ο τόπος μου" (My place) that has many ongoing projects, and is continually conducting polls to find out what should be the next product for such an action. Currently, that's flour and the oil is probably next. But the farmers haven't forget that this all started out of solidarity, so simultaneously they continue to offer free sacks of potatoes to the poor in some of the most affected communities in Greece.

It appears that while most of us were waiting for the intellectuals, students or workers unions to organize and make the change, it was in fact the farmers that showed us how it's done. They literally put the glasses on our eyes, as Greeks would say. So let us see what happens when the farmers organize.

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