French farmers block imports from Germany and Spain
By Peter Teffer
French farmers have been trying to block farm products coming in from Germany and Spain since Sunday evening (26 July) as part of a wider protest against falling prices.
Farmers have used trucks to block six routes from Germany to prevent trucks with agricultural products coming in, French news agency AFP reported Monday.
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“We let the cars and everything that comes from France pass,” said Franck Sander a representative of a farmers' union, who noted that around one thousand farmers participated in the protest.
Farmers also used tractors to block the road near the Spanish border.
Sander said that German food prices are lower because eastern European workers, with lower wages, are employed there.
The French government had announced an aid package of €600 million last week, but this failed to quell the unrest, which included road blockades, dumping manure, and protesting in supermarkets.
The farmers say the prices they get for milk and meat have dropped due to the higher margins from the supermarkets and cheap imports.
Changing consumption patterns, the end of the EU's milk quota regime, a Russian embargo on western products, and lower demand from China, also play a role.
“The government hears these farmers' despair and cries of revolt. They are, after all, at the heart of our economy and our world heritage”, French prime minister Manuel Valls said last week.
“But anger doesn't permit them to do anything they want.”
EU farm ministers are to hold a special meeting on the issue in September.
Last week, Belgian farmers also protested against low milk prices.
"The problem is that the price of milk is around 25 cents. ... We need a price around 35 to 40 cents to break even. We are losing money, we cannot repay loans, we don’t know what to do", a farmer told Euronews.
Milk quotas were scrapped at the end of March. A few days before the quota regime ended, EU commissioner Phil Hogan had said the market prospects for farmers are "encouraging".
But the end of the quota seems to have led to an increase in production and contributed to a lower price. The European Milk Board, a federation of European dairy farmers and farmers' lobbies, is now arguing for a temporary milk quota to be installed.