Thousands of farmers have been protesting in Brussels to demand European Union action to counter the slumping prices they get for milk and pork.
Farmers from across the 28-nation EU converged on EU headquarters on Monday, arriving on hundreds of tractors and snarling traffic during morning rush hour in the capital and on some highways leading into Brussels.
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.
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Brussels, said the farmers had been encouraged by protests carried out by French farmers last week, which had led to an immediate response from the government.
“They saw what happened last week when French farmers brought their tractors to the streets of Paris … within a very short period of time the French government had brought in new measures in favour of farmers.
“They’re also very concerned about the negative effect the standoff between Russia and EU is having on agriculture… The Russians are retaliating by banning the import of products from EU and that’s having a big impact on farmers,” Rowland said.
The European Commission on Monday offered measures worth $557m to help the farmers facing economic problems.
The commission unveiled its aid package at a special meeting of EU agriculture ministers convened on the issue. The measures include direct funding for member states, with the advice that the bulk of this should go to dairy farmers.
In addition, new storage schemes are to be set up for dairy produce and pork, while measures will be taken to boost exports outside the EU.