The area of the European institutions will remain blocked today (27 November) by protests of more than 2,500 farmers from across the EU against milk quotas and prices which they claim are well below production costs.
Farmers from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and also Poland, Spain, Denmark and Ireland have gathered since yesterday (26 November) in the 'EU quarter', their 800 tractors completely blocking traffic.
According to Belgian media, they spilled some 15,000 litres of milk, the production of a daily average farm, at Place du Luxembourg. They also sprayed the European Parliament with milk using fire hoses.
The European Milk Board (EMB), which coordinated the two-day protest, said prices with current quotas were putting small farmers out of business.
According to a press release, the aim of the protest was to call on decision-makers to take responsibility and decide on efficient rules for the market.
“The fact that so many colleagues from all over Europe came to demonstrate shows how important the future of rural agriculture serving society’s needs is for them. This future can only be secured thanks to a flexible supply management through a European Monitoring Agency”, EMB-President Romuald Schaber is quoted as saying.
Current levels of over-production were damaging European milk markets and impelled European Institutions to take appropriate measures, the EMB warned. The group denounced “absurd overproduction”, which puts pressure on prices.
In Belgium, the EMB said the wholesale price for each litre of milk was € 0.26, while the cost of producing it was €0.40.
The EU is the world's largest milk producer and spends more than 40% of its budget paying subsidies and other forms of financial support to farmers, including those in the dairy industry.
Brussels sets an annual milk quota – of around 130 million tonnes, too much for EU-consumption – but has agreed to phase that out by 2015.
Some tractors from abroad stayed in Brussels for the night but the vast majority of Belgian vehicles returned to their farms yesterday evening.
Today, the farmers who have stayed in Brussels plan to take their tractors to the centre of Brussels. Erwin Schöpges, President of the Belgian branch of the EMB, said that today’s protests would be calmer.