Dozens of agricultural producers protested today in different parts of Panama and closed several roads to ask the Government to urgently solve the crisis in the sector and reduce the "excessive" food imports.
"Governments do not understand any language other than the closure of streets, we shut down (the streets) on July 29 and we are doing it again because there has been no response. The sector is in crisis, excessive imports are destroying the sector," a farmer from the town of La Villa, 300 kilometers west of the capital, told a local television.
The protests took place early in the morning in the interior provinces of Los Santos, Veraguas, Panama West and Darién, and are expected to spread to other parts of the country throughout the day.
The producers protested that the free trade agreements (FTAs) have resulted in "massive" and "excessive" imports of food.
They also complain about the lack of a long-term State policy, which has caused the gradual deterioration of the countryside, which already represents only 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
"Here milk costs 50 cents (in dollars), first they dropped it to 38 cents and then to 33 cents, I think now they are going to lower it back to 28 cents. This is unsustainable, the numbers just do not add up; the final consumer goes to the supermarkets and prices are through the roof," said the same producer.
The protests began at the end of July and, after establishing a roundtable with the Government, producers abandoned the negotiations on August 3 in the absence of agreement.
The Ministry of Agricultural Development said on Tuesday that Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela will receive the producers onAugust 16 to seek a solution to the conflict.
The agricultural leader Nelson Cedeño said Wednesday that this date is "unacceptable" and that the president has to sit down with the producers "today or tomorrow at the latest."
Producers also demand the disappearance of the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (Aupsa), which is in charge of controlling imports, and the creation of a new institution in which they have a voice.