By Maja Tuljkovic – Sarajevo
At the height of the protests in B&H, another one began yesterday. This time, farmers of Posavina Canton first held a peaceful protest, and then blocked the border crossing Orašje-Županja (Croatia). The farmers said that the reason for the blockade and protests is that the FB&H government did not pay the entire outstanding balance of incenvitves from 2012 and 2013. This is in the amount of 500.000 BAM for 2012 and around 4 million BAM for 2013. The demands of the protestors is the respect of the agreement with the FB& Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, which was reached about a month and a half ago in Sarajevo, and when the payment of incentives was agreed on. According to the findings of the farmers, the orders were sent to the Minister of Finance of the FB&H government in the last moments of the deadline, on 31 January, but the money was not sent to the accounts of the farmers.
Farmers from Posavina Canton began to block the border crossing Orašje-Županja at around 11:30 yesterday. They spent the night at the crossing and the blockade continued today. Traffic was occasionally in function, and only for passenger traffic, while there is suspension of traffic for trucks. However, due to the fact that no one from the FB&H government contacted them, the farmers announced that from Wednesday traffic will be only allowed in emergency cases and with the recommendation of the police. For all other vehicles, including international bus lines, traffic will be stopped.
From the first day, farmers raised a tent village near the border crossing in order to show their serious intent, and that they did not come together just to disperse without having their demands resolved. The payment of the incentives is not the only one, because the farmers do not have money for production materials and seeds, and cannot wait and they said that this should be clear to the FB&H government. They note that they would seek what belongs to them so that they could freely grow their crops.
The President of the Cantonal government and the Police Commissioner scheduled a meeting today with the Representatives of the Union of Associations of Agricultural Producers of Posavina Canton SuljoTahirović. However, details of this meeting will be made known to the public later. Until then, around one hundred farmers from the area of Odžak, who spent the night in tents and cars, remain at the border. Citizens are bringing them sandwiches and hot drinks, and they point out that they would not return home until they get their subsidies.
Posavina is the granary of Bosnia and most of the area is agricultural. The debt of around 4,5 million BAM is sufficient to plant tobacco, corn, soy and other crops. Farmers want to grow their own crops, and not to import from abroad, while agriculture is being choked in such a way.
Today, the traffic police from Orašje diverted freight traffic to other border crossings in Posavina-Brčko and BosanskiŠamac, and drivers of passenger cars and buses are waiting in traffic jams that are periodically being let through the border crossing. During the entire time of the blockade of the crossing, an extra vehicular lane for emergency vehicles has been open.