Angry Farmers Block Brussels Streets Over Falling Produce Prices

7 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

1000s of Farmers Protest at EU HQ to Protest Slumping Prices.

An estimated 4,000 farmers, including some from Britain, gathered in the Belgian capital on Monday as European farming ministers hold an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in the agriculture industry. BRUSSELS — Thousands of farmers, driving hundreds of tractors through the city center, protested outside European Union headquarters to demand more aid and higher prices for their milk and meat.Thousands of angry European farmers today set off fireworks, blared horns and blocked Brussels streets with tractors as they demanded emergency EU funds to help them cope with plunging food prices.

Northern Ireland farmers will be among the thousands of European farmers protesting in the streets of Brussels today over the continuing fall in produce prices. From across the 28-nation EU, farmers converged on EU headquarters with their tractors, snarling traffic throughout the morning in the capital and on some highways leading into Brussels. It had been predicted that 2,000 farmers and 1,000 tractors will travel to Brussels to hold the mass demonstration outside the extraordinary meeting of the European Union Agriculture Ministers, but fresh estimates suggest up to 6,000 farmers and 2,000 tractors will attend.

With the relentless blowing of horns, they showed their anger over high taxes and falling prices that have been exacerbated since the opening up of the milk market early this year. A combination of factors, including changing dietary habits, slowing Chinese demand and a Russian embargo on Western products in response to sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, has pushed down prices for beef, pork and milk. He will therefore be replaced at the meeting by Jyrki Katainen, the EU Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, who instead will present the package of proposals.

In France, the agriculture minister has estimated that around 10% of farms, approximately 22,000 sites, are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of €1bn. Local members of farm lobby groups Fair Price Farming NI, the Ulster Farmers’ Union and Farmers For Action, among others, will also be present at the protest. The council, which represents the 28 member states, said the agriculture ministers will debate “the state of play of agriculture markets in the EU” with much of the focus on milk prices. A number of protests were held last week at the European Commission’s office in Belfast and at Stormont, making one final push to highlight the predicament farmers are in. European farmers have suffered a sharp decline in demand for their products as Russia blocks western imports of food and China tries to bolster domestic production rather than buying milk from Europe.

Farmers were complaining they basically now have to dump their produce on the market at a loss. “The milk price is under or around 28 cents (per liter, about 0.2 gallons). Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Downey said prices are now at their lowest possible level and that farmers are no longer getting the cost of production for the product they produce.

He added that one of the contributing factors to the falling prices is the Russian ban on EU imports which has seen products that would normally go to Russia being redirected into the European market. Sources say Mr Hogan was expected to announce a dairy support package worth €300m to help the industry, funded by the 2014-15 dairy superlevy fines estimated at around €840m.

She has pledged to push for the creation of a futures and insurance market in dairy products so farmers can insure themselves against price fluctuations. But a system of generous subsidies and market-shielding measures led to overproduction and an industry that found it tough to adapt to changing conditions.

He said that politicians need to act in a bid to improve the situation for farmers, such as providing opportunities for development into other markets, he said. Mr Downey added that Phil Hogan, as European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, has serious decisions to make in order to protect farm families. With the price of milk currently at CHF0.48 per litre it is impossible to live, he said. “We cannot pay for labour, or external production costs,” he explained.

Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl have increased the amount they pay, and Tesco has agreed to use only British milk in its own-brand yoghurts instead of importing from Germany, as it had done previously. On Friday the Swiss agricultural research centre Agroscope published a report showing that a farmer’s average income last year rose by 10.5% versus 2013 to CHF67,800 ($69,598) per farm.

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