Thousands of angry European farmers on Monday 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.
The protest involving mainly Belgian, French and German farmers targeted the heavily-guarded European Union headquarters where agriculture ministers were due to meet to tackle the crisis.
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.
“Europe is drowning in milk,” according to banners held aloft by farmers representing the European Milk Board.
A group of French milk producers from Calvados said they were demanding a fair price for their produce.
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).
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.
The ministers would also discuss “the impact on the EU market of the import ban on EU agricultural products imposed by Russia,” the council said.
In July, the EU extended until next year a multi-million euro aid package to help struggling European farmers hit by Russian sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.