Latvian farmers have staged protests in 16 locations across the country, calling for an immediate prohibition on the importation of food products from Russia and Belarus, according to Delfi. Despite the European Union not sanctioning Russian agricultural products, Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics expressed his support for an import ban on Russian grain for both political and economic reasons. The coalition government of Latvia subsequently announced its support for the ban, promising to present a draft law to parliament in February.
Beyond the ban on Russian and Belarusian food products, the farmers are also seeking a decrease in bureaucratic hurdles in agriculture, broader access to financing, and a lower VAT rate for native Latvian fruits and vegetables. Juris Lazdins, chairman of the farmers union "Zemnieku Saeima," has formally submitted these demands to the government. Lazdins warned that if their demands are not met, the farmers are prepared to protest in Riga on February 12th.
Latvia has seen a significant increase in Russian grain imports, with over 380,000 metric tons imported into the European Union through Latvia in 2023, a rise of roughly 80,000 tons compared to the previous year. Rinkevics argues that these imports bolster the Russian economy and by extension, its military, and that what is labelled as Russian grain might actually be Ukrainian grain stolen from Russian-occupied territories.