Thousands of Polish family farmers turned out this week to protest in over fifty locations across the country.

Over 150 tractors blockaded the A2 motorway into Warsaw on Tuesday and hundreds more continue to close major roads and picket government offices in other regions. The farmers are vowing to continue the struggle until the government agrees to enter talks with the unions and commits to addressing what the farmers see as a crisis in Polish agriculture.

These actions represent a dramatic escalation of protests that have been simmering across the country over the last year.

The four key demands of the farmers are:

* Land rights - implement regulation to prevent land-grabs by Western companies and to protect farmers rights to land - from 2016 foreign buyers will be legally able to buy Polish land.

* Legalise direct sales of farm produce - the government must take action to improve farmers' position in the market, including the adoption of a law to facilitate direct sales of processed and unprocessed farm products. Poland has the most exclusionary policies in Europe around on-farm processing of food products and direct sales, which make it impossible for family farmers to compete with bigger food companies.

*Extend inheritance laws to include land under lease as a fully legal form of land use.

* Ban the cultivation and sale of Genetically Modified Organisms in Poland.

A Solidarity spokesperson said: "We demand the introduction of legislation that will protect Polish land from exploitation by foreign capital. Agricultural land can't be sold to commercial companies. It's part of Polish territory. Once sold it will be lost."

Market round-up

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 263 store heifers at Ayr on Thursday to a top of £1290 per head and 289.7p per kg to average £952.15 and 224.8p, while 315 store, beef-bred bullocks peaked at £1340 and 295.2p to level at £1033.79 and 232.6p. Thirty-seven store, B&W bullocks sold to £1165 and 197.4p to average £798.78 and 169.8p.

The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart sold 4760 prime hoggs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £123 per head and 275.8p per kg to average 200.3p (+6.8p on the week).

The firm also had 3432 cast sheep forward when heavy ewes sold to £150 for Texels and averaged £96.90 (-£2.48), while light ewes peaked at £95 for Cheviots and levelled at £71.09 (+£11.92). Rams sold to £144 for a Texel and averaged £88.09 (-£5.84).