Greek farmers on tractors protest 'unbearable' fuel, fertilizer costs

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ATHENS, March 18 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Greek farmers, some on tractors, protested in Athens on Friday, demanding more tax cuts and subsidies to combat high fuel and fertilizer prices which have soared since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The farmers, who staged weeks of protests over high energy prices earlier this year, say their costs are so high they will be forced to produce less and also raise prices for consumers.

The government has so far spent about 3.7 billion euros ($4.08 billion) since September to alleviate pain from soaring energy and fuel costs for farmers, households and businesses.

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It cut a sales tax on fertilisers by 46% to 13% and on Thursday announced it would be lowered further, to 6%, and also announced a tax rebate on fuel for agricultural vehicles.

Farmers say the measures do not go far enough and everything has become too expensive, from fuel to animal feed.

"Our survival is really at stake this year," said one protester, Giorgos Laoutis. "With the cost of production, electricity, agricultural supplies, fuel."

Farmers from across Greece joined the rally. Some protesters hung black flags on shepherd's crooks or sticks.

"The situation has become unbearable," said another farmer, Diamanto Kritikou.

"We can't work our fields, we can't cultivate, we can't put gas in our vehicles, and (we can't buy) seeds, fertilizers... there will be a problem with food supply in the country," she said.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has driven retail gasoline and diesel prices to record highs.

Russia is also a big producer of potash-, phosphate- and nitrogen-containing fertilisers, and a leader in fertilizer exports, accounting for 13% of world output.

This month, its trade and industry ministry told the country's fertilizer producers to temporarily halt exports.

As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the United Nations food agency said last week that international food and feed prices could rise by up to 20%.

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Reporting by Stelios Misinas Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by David Gregorio

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