EU farmers in milk lake protest
Farmers protest low milk prices by dumping tons of produce throughout Europe.
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2009 09:52 GMT
 Farmers emptied their milk tankers, flooding the entrance to the European Commission [AFP]

European dairy farmers have dumped thousands of litres of milk in protest against low market prices.

Farmers from Portugal to Poland expressed their anger on Tuesday by emptying their milk tankers and flooding the entrance to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels with a symbolic "milk lake".

Romuald Schaber, the European Milk Board chief, helped open the taps on three giant vats surrounded by burning bales of hay and model  cows, while demanding a meeting with commission chief Jose Manuel  Barroso - who is in New York.

"This action is symbolic, but nearly 40 million litres of milk will be poured away elsewhere in Europe," warned Schaber, who said in a letter to Barroso that "tens of thousands of milk  producers face financial ruin".

Minute's silence

Farmers facing rocketing costs for producing milk, cheese and other dairy products under a phased removal of European Union quotas that artificially propped up prices, have been on strike for 11 days in France.

At the same time, milk prices in some countries have more than halved since 2007,  according to Schaber, whose organisation represents a third of  European milk producers.

Reports of suicides by three farmers in France over the past week lay behind a call for a "minute's silence" in the southwest of the country on Tuesday, while protests were also held in Switzerland  and the Netherlands, where half a million litres were poured away in one field.

Italian farmers also halted deliveries to industry and announced  a blockade of routes through the Alps for Tuesday, despite Brussels allowing temporary aid to farmers being squeezed out of the market.

Portuguese farmers said they were waiting for the outcome of parliamentary elections on Sunday before targeting a new government with action there.

EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has offered to  relax conditions for member states that buy up producers' maximum production quotas from those wishing to quit the business, saying it would allow national governments to offer temporary aid of up to $22,200 per producer.

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