March 4, 2024

The organiser of a protest in which tractor-driving farmers caused traffic jams around the Port of Dover has said there could be more demonstrations.

Road traffic in and out of the Kent town was disrupted by the go-slow demonstration on Friday night.

Farmers’ protests have been sweeping Europe for months, in countries such as Greece, Germany, Portugal, Poland and France, where the government was taken by surprise by a motorway blockade of Paris.

Jeff Gibson, a farmer from Wingham in Kent, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that farmers in Europe had “shown us what can be accomplished and hopefully the government start taking notice”.

He said Brexit had made things more difficult for farmers. “This was a protest that was planned at lunchtime yesterday with 30 tractors. There’s tens and thousands of UK farmers that are angry and disgruntled at the moment so it could very easily escalate a lot further,” he said.

“As UK farmers we are very good at talking in the pub and keeping quiet and complaining about how bad things are and we don’t take action like European farmers. It has got to the point where voices need to be heard.”

Gibson posted on Facebook before the protest that it was against cheap imports and the government’s sustainable farming incentive (SFI) scheme.

He wrote: “Time has come, enough is enough why are we as British farmers producing food to the highest standards in the world, only for the government to do trade deals with countries producing far cheaper food with little or no standards. As for the supermarkets selling British produce cheaper than the cost of production, shame on you.

“The time has come to take a stance, if farming continues in this country as it is with the new SFI scheme actively encouraging us not to grow food and rely more on cheap imports none of us will exist once the government changes tack leaving us unequipped to grow anything.”

A Kent police spokesperson said: “Kent police was called just after 5pm on Friday 9 February to a report of slow-moving vehicles in Jubilee Way, Dover. Officers are in attendance and working with the Port of Dover police on this matter.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We firmly back our farmers. British farming is at the heart of British trade, and we put agriculture at the forefront of any deals we negotiate, prioritising new export opportunities and protecting UK food standards.

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“We are looking at ways to improve fairness and support British farmers and growers, as well as ensuring customers have access to high-quality fresh British products.”

Farmers in western Europe have fought with increasing ferocity in recent years against policies to protect the planet that they say cost too much.

German farmers blocked city centres, highways and motorway slip roads with tractors last month at the start of a week-long nationwide protest over planned cuts to agricultural sector subsidies that the government said could be co-opted by rightwing extremists.

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