The tractor procession snarled traffic heading into Helsinki from as early as 8.00 am. Farmers were bound for Senate Square to engage in a demonstration to highlight their plight, which the agricultural sector union MTK described as “catastrophic”.
MTK said that the sanctions against Russia and its countermeasures added to declining prices have driven Finnish farmers into financial distress. On top of that farmers have been enduring extended delays in receiving EU subsidies, something the union described as the “last straw”.
Finland’s Natural Resources Institute LUKE has estimated that last year farmers saw their incomes shrink by 40 percent compared to the previous year – on average that amounted to nearly 10,000 euros for each farm. The centre said in a press release that the decline of the dairy industry dragged down the fortunes of the entire agricultural sector.
The protesters arrived at the city centre around 9.00 am and the demonstration was expected to wind down around 3.00 pm, when commuters can expect another round of bottlenecks caused by tractors on the roads.
Similar demonstrations were planned for different parts of the country Friday.
Afternoon gridlock and public transportation woes
“It’s clear that there will be a considerable number of tractors – at least compared to the usual number of tractors on inbound routes – so there may be some impact,” said chief inspector Pekka Höök of Helsinki police.
Motorists who didn’t make it into the capital before 9.00 am were likely to get caught up in the procession. Meanwhile Höök said that the tractors would also disrupt afternoon traffic in the city.
“In the afternoon especially traffic will be more congested and it would be wise to reserve more time than usual for the outbound trip. The procession will also affect public transportation,” Höök added.
Police officials also reserved parking space for the tractors taking place in the demonstration but Höök said that other motorists will probably have to concede space to the protestors if the anticipated 500 vehicles arrive in the city.
“They have a civil right to demonstrate and the police will then try to ensure that traffic flows as well as smoothly as possible,” Höök concluded.