Greek farmers blocked major highways and border crossings with Bulgaria and Macedonia on Monday to press demands for quicker payment of state aid.

Using tractors and agricultural machinery, farmers cut the highway network at more than a dozen points, forcing drivers to make long detours.

They also blocked two crossings at Greece’s northern borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia, and threatened to close a crossing to Turkey in the northeast.

The farmers are demanding payment of delayed government aid and are protesting high production costs. The protests started Friday and grew larger Monday.

“We have a series of issues with the government that are in urgent need of settlement,” said a spokesman for cotton and cereal producers in central Greece.

“These range from unpaid European Union subsidies to the lack of a national strategy to make farming profitable again,” he said.

But the disruption of communications by Greece’s highly politicised farming lobby is also seen as an indicator of broader popular discontent in rural areas.

Monday’s protests went ahead in spite of appeals to keep roads open from cabinet ministers who toured the countryside over the weekend to explain the country’s fiscal crisis to voters.

“There is no possibility of hand-outs in the economic situation we’re in,” Philippos Sachinides, deputy finance minister, told his constituents in central Greece on Sunday.

But some producers’ organisations are sticking to demands for an immediate freeze on repayments of debt owed to the state-controlled Agricultural Bank, as well as fuel subsidies and guaranteed prices for their crops.

“The cost of inputs has rocketed in the past three years but prices haven’t kept pace.This situation is driving people off the land,” said a cotton farmer from Lamia in central Greece.

Greece’s PASOK government which is struggling to cope with a debt crisis, pledged to pay the aid by mid-March and urged farmers to dismantle their roadblocks.