European farmers protest plummeting food prices in Brussels | News | DW | 07.09.2015

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European farmers protest plummeting food prices in Brussels

Thousands of European farmers have descended on the Belgian capital to protest against high taxes and plunging food prices. European Union (EU) agriculture ministers are due to meet in Brussels to assess the problem.

Traffic jams stretched as far as 200 km (124 miles) early on Monday as hundreds of farmers blocked streets with tractors and set off fireworks. Around 1,000 tractors and 4,000 farmers were expected to take part in the demonstrations.

The protesters - who were mainly German, French and Belgian - were demanding more direct aid from their governments to pay the bills, with others also pushing for a reintroduction of quotas.

The farmers have been hit by a numbers of factors in recent years including changing dietary habits and slowing Chinese demand.

More recently, however, a Russian embargo on Western products in response to sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, has had a dramatic effect on prices for beef, pork and milk.

Droughts in key European agricultural areas have also reduced grain, fruit and vegetable harvests this year.

Figures released last month by Germany's farmers' association, the DBV, showed that only 46.5 million tons of the staple grain crops were harvested so far this year - a shortfall of 11 percent over last year's record 52 million tons.

In France, the agriculture minister has estimated that around 10 percent of farms - approximately 22,000 sites - are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of one billion euros ($1.12 billion).

'Nowhere enough'

The protests on Monday coincided with an extraordinary meeting between the agriculture ministers from the EU's 28 member states.

The ministers planned to discuss "the state of play of agriculture markets in the EU" with much of the focus on milk prices, as well as "the impact on the EU market of the import ban on EU agricultural products imposed by Russia."

The European Union has already offered several support measures to farmers, but what has been done so far is "nowhere enough to compensate producers for their losses," the European farmers' association Copa-Cogeca said last week.

The French government also announced new measures to protect its agriculture sector last week, after more than 1,500 tractors participated in similar protests in Paris.

ksb/gb (AFP, AP, dpa)

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