Around 20 horticulture producers in Iceland gathered outside the parliamentary building on Austurvöllur square in Reykjavík yesterday, armed with protest signs, vegetables and flowers, to object high energy prices, which they say are crushing their industry.
From a greenhouse in Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
MPs and other passers by were presented with cucumbers, tomatoes and roses. “We want to emphasize the difficult situation in horticulture farming because of our electricity usage,” Bjarni Jónsson, managing director of the Icelandic Association of Horticulture Producers, told RÚV.
“We have seen a 30 percent increase in the price of electricity this year and such an increase is very difficult for horticulture farming because it is the industry’s largest cost item,” Jónsson added.
The state reduced subsidies of the cost of electricity and electricity transport to horticulture farmers one year ago. Now some farmers may have to cease production over the winter months; others believe they may have to cease production entirely.
“I can’t make ends meet with these prices,” said Ragnar Sverrisson, horticulture farmer at Ösp in Laugarás. Horticulture farmers want to buy electricity at lower prices like companies operating within heavy industry.
Minister of Agriculture Jón Bjarnason was presented with a large bouquet of flowers and a basket of vegetables during yesterday’s demonstration. “We are reviewing the laws on electricity […] and we will have to see what happens,” he said, but would not make any promises, apart from saying, “I will do my best.”
“Jón, you might have to do more than that!” farmers shouted. “I will try,” the minister replied. “But I’m not alone [in the cabinet].”
Minister of Industry Katrín Júlíusdóttir said she didn’t understand yesterday’s demonstration. She said a committee is handling their issues within the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Also, since last summer, I have granted horticulture farmers access to an employee within my ministry to review the possibilities of this situation, what is doable and what isn’t,” the minister explained.
“My attempt to establish communication with vegetable farmers has not been fully taken advantage of on their behalf and I find it natural that they do that,” Júlíusdóttir added. “Therefore, I don’t fully comprehend what they’re asking for here today. We have met them with the uttermost intent.”
A statement on the website of RARIK – The Iceland State Electricity – reads that horticulture farmers are not treated any differently than other customers and with financial support from the state they actually pay a lower electricity price than other companies in business with RARIK.
Click here to read more about the concerns of horticulture farmers.