In Sint-Katelijne-Waver, about 150 tractors gathered in the parking lot of the BelOrta auction on Friday evening. From there they went in a column and accompanied by the police towards the R6. The police had called earlier in the day to avoid the area, but a blockade of the R6 by angry farmers ultimately failed to materialize.
In agricultural circles and via social media, there were calls on Friday afternoon to gather at the BelOrta auction for a large farmers’ protest. The farmers’ initial goal was to block the R6, but that did not happen. “We were able to make good agreements with the farmers and horticulturists on site,” says Jelle Cotemans, chief of police at Bodukap. “This way we could prevent the R6 from being blocked.”
“It was important to us that nothing would be damaged and that the R6 would remain at least partially open to traffic, primarily for the accessibility of the AZ Sint-Maarten,” adds Mayor Kristof Sels (N-VA ) On. “The farmers understood that, just as we understand their dissatisfaction. We ultimately reached an agreement whereby farmers and horticulturists were allowed to drive along the R6 in a convoy with their tractors.”
From the auction, the procession of tractors and other vehicles headed towards Lombaardstraat and the R6 around 7 p.m. According to the agreements, they are allowed to drive to the roundabout in Bonheiden and back again. Finally, a stop is made at Greenyard. “We expect that the majority of farmers will return home afterwards,” said Chief Commissioner Cotemans. “But it is not inconceivable that some of them will remain with the company. That is why we will certainly stay on site.”
About 150 farmers showed up for the protest. “That is much more than originally thought, but the atmosphere was friendly,” say the police chief and the mayor. “Some of them had estimated that there would be twenty of them, others thought of eighty, but the turnout was much larger. There was no clear organization in advance, so it was not immediately clear what exactly the purpose of their action was, but we no longer expect any significant problems.”
The message from the farmers was also the same in Sint-Katelijne-Waver as during the other protests in the country. They demand more respect, fewer rules, higher compensation and a better future perspective. They also target large food companies and stores such as Greenyard. Earlier this week, for example, angry farmers also blocked access to a distribution center of the Colruyt Group in Mechelen.