6 Oct 2009

Protests outside EU milk meeting

7:28 am on 6 October 2009

Hundreds of farmers are protesting in Brussels where European Union agriculture ministers are meeting to discuss low milk prices.

There have been weeks of protests across Europe, with farmers dumping milk stocks and withholding supplies at what they see as uneconomic prices.

The BBC reports the problem in the European milk market is that supply exceeds demand, so prices have fallen sharply.

France and Germany want the EU to give farmers emergency funds.

However, EU Farm Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said additional funds could be provided only if member states provided it, and the money did not come from the existing EU budget.

Farmers say their current production costs are more than twice the price they get for their milk.

They insist that the EU must tighten milk quotas to drive up prices, rather than sticking to a current commitment to end all quotas by 2015 and move price control wholly over to the market.

Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson said a key problem was that while farmers have seen the prices they receive for their milk decline by 40%, prices in the shops have fallen only between 1% - 2%.

The EU pays €55 billion ($US80 billion; £50 billion) annually to the agriculture sector in its 27 members for support payments, storage aid, rural development, and other projects.